Wemple Perfects the Copycat Critique

WaPo‘s Erik Wemple appropriately points out in a Monday post that the NYT failed to give Politico proper credit for its Herman Cain sexual harassment story. We just think that if WaPo‘s media opinion writer is going to criticize the NYT for attribution problems, that he point out that this critique first began in early November.

As readers may recall, this was when NYT‘s Jim Rutenberg squabbled about the finer points of “newspapering” and how it’s perfectly acceptable for one version of a story to cite Politico and another to leave it out. The gist was, don’t we know anything about smoothing information into a story with each passing edition and shouldn’t we correct our “glaring error?” That was three days after the Politico story first broke. And Rutenberg was explaining to us that at some point a story evolves and “takes on a life of its own” and no longer necessarily requires attribution.

Here we are a month later and Wemple is right that the comprehensive NYT Cain story ought to have cited Politico. But then again, Wemple, too, is guilty of taking a story and not giving the outlet that broke it proper credit. Try this relatively recent story on Politico‘s firing/resignation of Kendra Marr, who was caught lifting passages from other publications such as the NYT. Wemple got around to analyzing the situation some 24 hours after the fact. No doubt someone aside from himself deserved credit for that one.

When we wrote about NYT nixing credit to Politico on the Cain story, we got mail about what a great guy Rutenberg is — one said pointedly, “Leave Rutenberg alone” — which is hardly the point when covering the media, as most people are not monsters.