NY Times Columnist Maureen Dowd Caught Plagiarizing TPM Blogger

Yesterday Nora Roberts and I presented a morning panel at the Washington Romance Writers May meeting and talked about plagiarism. The point of our discusion was simple: “If We Don’t Talk About It, It Won’t Go Away.”

If you attended the session on plagiarism at RWA in San Francisco, you might have a sense of the general themes of the discussion. As Jane said that afternoon in San Francisco, the attitude toward the topic itself, from discussing it to reporting it to dealing with the aftermath, needs to change, and it needs to change now. Within romance and within publishing in general, there is a lack of cohesive response to allegations of, followed by proof of, plagiarism. Whereas one publisher might deliberately seek to handle the matter internally, another may do something entirely different.

But the reaction never changes. Within the community of writers, some bring up the issue as a matter of educational opportunity; others wish we’d stop talking about it already. Aside from the predictable excuses Nora outlined in her discussion, ranging from, ‘I would never do such a thing’ to ‘It seems my research assistant…’ or ‘my undiagnosed mental illness’ made me do it, the lack of an effective reaction to the plagiarism itself is frustrating.

Newspapers are a slightly different animal, especially since the four-page retraction-o-rama in The New York Times that followed the firing of Jayson Blair for multiple counts of plagiarism in May of 2003.

Now that it’s May of 2009, and Maureen Dowd has been caught plagiarizing Josh Marshall from Talking Points Memo, I’m very curious to see what will happen to Dowd.

What drops my jaw is that just yesterday, I was saying that the connectivity and immense number of searchable texts available online means one thing: if you do plagiarize, you will get caught. And Nora’s point about blaming the research assistant or some other unnamed individual is played out here, only in this case Dowd is placing the blame on a comment made by a friend while she was writing the article. In her statement to the NYT-focused blog NYT Picker:

josh is right. I didn’t read his blog last week, and didn’t have any idea he had made that point until you informed me just now.

i was talking to a friend of mine Friday about what I was writing who suggested I make this point, expressing it in a cogent—and I assumed spontaneous—way and I wanted to weave the idea into my column.

but, clearly, my friend must have read josh marshall without mentioning that to me.

we’re fixing it on the web, to give josh credit, and will include a note, as well as a formal correction tomorrow.

Good Lord, do we need to have a plagiarism drinking game? It wasn’t my fault (2 sips). It was unintentional (2 sips).

Fucking bullshit (please, someone get me a drink).

As one commenter, johnsonwax, pointed out at Daily Kos, Dowd’s friend made this point “so cogently that even the commas fall in the same places. That’s some seriously detailed conversation she has.

The column at the NY Times site has been updated to include a mention of the original source of the line and states at the bottom:

An earlier version of this column failed to attribute a paragraph about the timeline for prisoner abuse to Josh Marshall’s blog at Talking Points Memo.

Failed? Yeah, you got that right, it failed on an epic fucking scale. Is this really such a difficult lesson to learn? It’s the internet, for heaven’s sake: don’t plagiarize. Not only does it make you a complete douchebag, but You Will Get Caught.

Readers of this site may have seen a kerfuffle or two played out in the romance world. But oh, Lordy, hell hath no kerfuffle like the seething torment of a left-wing or right-wing political blog. There is no equal.

I’m curious to see the response as this hits the news tonight and tomorrow. How many times will we see someone say, ‘Oh, it’s just a blogger,’ or ‘she fixed it and can we move on now?’ Or, ‘this isn’t the issue we need to talk about and it’s not important.’

Dowd’s column was about accountability when examining scandal and illegal behavior – in this particular instance, torture. And yes, we do need to examine the issue of torture like holy shit right goddam now. But if the individuals who are charged as journalists and newspaper columnists to raise and report the issue don’t have the integrity and sense of accountability to correctly attribute the sources of their ideas and arguments, then their lack of authenticity renders useless their contribution. Moreover, it reflects poorly on the journalism of every other person working to publish at a newspaper whose stock price per share a few months ago was less than the cost of the Sunday edition.

If accountability and ethical behavior are some of the issues at work within both of the situations at hand, I’ll be very curious to see how Dowd’s behavior is dealt with by the newspaper. If her point in that article is that ethical responsibility is important, let’s see how she walks that walk in the morning.


Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Becky says:

    So her response is “Sorry, Josh, I thought I was stealing from a friend, not you!”

    It’s a good thing I’m not friends with this person, because I’d be seriously peeved to read my friend’s article and discover that she’d quoted me and not giving me credit for the line.

  2. 2
    azteclady says:

    *head meets desk* (again and again and again)

    And yes, I expect to hear the chorus of “are they flagging that poor dead horse again? who care?” any second now.

    Now I’ll go back to hitting my head on the desk.

  3. 3
    Jennie says:

    It’s gotten so trashy that its moved beyond a simple drinking game and has entered the realm of Walmart bingo… http://bitsandpieces.us/2008/10/29/wal-mart-bingo/

  4. 4

    Sarah, are you going to blog about yours and Nora’s presentation? At least the salient points? Thanks,

  5. 5
    Jenna says:

    This is a plagiarism drinking game I wrote a couple years ago for another plagiarism wank. You’re welcome to do whatever you like with it, Bitchery.

      1. Vehement denial of all wrongdoing: take a sip.
      2. Threatening the people who discovered/exposed the plagirism: take a sip
      3. Blaming the plagiarism on stress/mental illness/physical illness/past trauma/past life trauma: take three sips.
      4. Emergence of sock puppets in the guise of spouse/agent/sibling/therapist/dog groomer: take a sip.
      5. Threats of internet lawyers: take a sip.
      6. Appearance of internet lawyers: take a shot.
      7. Appearance of internet lawyer who has no understanding of copyright law/the First Amendment/basic rules of grammar: take two shots.
      8. Grudging admittance of wrongdoing and half-assed apology: take three shots.
      9. Acceptance of responsibility and sincere apologies to the offended party: CHUG LIKE A FRAT BOY ON SPRING BREAK.

  6. 6
    Diane/Anonym2857 says:

    While I find her actions utterly contemptible and firmly believe she should be publicly shamed at the very least, and fined/fired at most,  I gotta say that I’m skeptical anything will even be mentioned on a grand scale (tho I’d be thrilled to be wrong).  She’s too much of a darling of the liberal media, and the point she ‘stole’ is one that most in the media want to get behind.  So it will be mentioned by the ones who disagree with her anyway—Fox, Limbaugh, Hannity and company—but that’s about it. 

    OTOH, if it had been Limbaugh or one of his kind who’d been caught that way, it would defintely be headline news.  I say that not to throw gas on the fire, but just to say that I think she’ll get cut considerably more slack than others would, due to her popularity and the position she was taking … literally, as it turns out.

    It shouldn’t be a matter of right/left politics, but of integrity.  I’m jaded and cynical enough to figure politics and popularity are pretty much all that will matter in this case.


  7. 7
    Lori says:

    I had the same thought as Becky. Her excuse is that she meant to steal from her friend, who presumably wouldn’t have complained, only to discover that the friend has stolen from Josh Marshall.  I guess we know what the two of them have in common—-lack of ethics.  And Maureen apparently also have no sense of irony since she plagiarized a column about accountability. I mean really, damn

    I expect that this will generate a fair amount of heat in left blogisphere, if for no other reason than that MoDo is not popular.

  8. 8
    Lu says:

    oh my….

    the stupid… it burns…. along with the insane.

    My first thought can be summed up as WTF!!?!!

    Followed by ‘dear Lord, I thought this was something that we wouldn’t have to worry about from professional journalists and commentators’.  I mean, this is their job, right?  To observe and investigate the world and describe things, comment on them, to put them into words for those who didn’t see it – and that’s what they get paid for, those words.  Right?  So why wouldn’t they be appallingly, rabidly possessive of those words, wanting those words to be their words, to consider this the hot-button of unforgivable sins?  (or is it only an unforgivable if someone takes their words, but just an ‘unfortunate accident’ if they have someone else’s words?)  Because isn’t that not only falsifying your work, like a sort of fraud, but stealing someone else’s work as well?

    Of course, the next thing that comes to my mind is didn’t these people (any of the plagiarizing wretched bastards (not to besmirch the good names of their unfortunate mothers, who may be searching for adoption papers now…) who have been revealed for the cowardly thieving plagiarists that they are – didn’t they listen in school when their teachers said ‘using someone else’s words without telling us where you found them is called plagiarism, and it is a Bad Thing’  (I got that from… I know we covered that in 6th grade, I suspect we covered it in 5th grade.  We hit it again in 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th (a very nit-picky English teacher that year), every college class that I had that wasn’t purely math (and it got covered in the Statistics class too)….  That can’t have been just my somewhat rural school system.  I’m certain that every other school system must have hit ‘plagiarism is bad – don’t do it’ in at least a few classes, and had it in the school rulebook/handbook (I can’t be the only person who actually read mine, can I?).

    I mean, back the last time a plagiarism scandal hit this blog, my 7th grader could tell me what plagiarism was and that it was something bad that you should never do.  My 3rd grader didn’t know the word, but she knew the concept was wrong.  It can’t just be their school system.  These people had to know.  And everyone out there who wants to be any sort of writer – newspaper, blogger, short stories, novels, hell, even fanfic writers (the vast majority, at least) know that your work is your own, and is your hope of recognition, of longevity (some might say immortality) – you want it to be yours, and for nobody but nobody to steal it. 

    so why…?  just… why?  I mean, the occasional fanfic plagiarism scandal I can almost explain away as there keep being stupid teenagers who are convinced that ‘nobody will find out, they won’t be able to catch me, I’ll get away with it (no, you won’t.  Someone will recognize it, and they will tell.  They might tell the real author first, or they might just put it out there for the fanfic community, God, and everybody to see and know that someone has become thieving swine… sometimes with emails.  That’s not the way most people want to get a reputation.)  It’s still a horrible, appalling thing.  But there will continue to be stupid teenagers.

    ….. but these are supposed to be grown-ups.  The same with the various novel plagiarism scandals that have been mentioned on this blog.  Presumed grown-ups, people who allegedly know what they’re doing and want to run their own lives, not needing a keeper to make sure they play nice and brush before bedtime.  So why do they do something like this?

    (ummm… this is a bit of a hot-button for me.  Sorry to have ranted.)

    verification word: dead54 – yep, I can think of 54 horrible torments and deaths for plagiarists.  Give me some time and paper and I can start a list. Of course, some of those things may be illegal…

  9. 9
    Lori says:

    She’s too much of a darling of the liberal media

    I’m not even going to bother with the “liberal media” thing, but I feel like I have to point out that liberals don’t love her. The ones who love her are other pundits.  That’s a group that really sticks together.  They’re all making a lot of money from a job that has few qualifications and basically no accountability. They’ll all want this to go away quickly because if one of them falls off the gravy train they’re all at risk.  Bloggers aren’t going to feel the same way about it.

    I mention this because I think authors might want to take note. When an author gets caught plagiarizing and other authors want to sweep it under the rug I always wonder if they’re doing it for the same sort of self-serving reason.  After going through a few of these scandals there are definitely writers that I wonder about, and I doubt that I’m the only one. So, taking the problem seriously really is in the best interest of every honest author.

  10. 10
    Diane/Anonym2857 says:

    I’m not even going to bother with the “liberal media” thing, but I feel like I have to point out that liberals don’t love her. The ones who love her are other pundits.  That’s a group that really sticks together.


    I guess I’m using the wrong terminology, then—those are the people I’m referring to.  I don’t follow a lot of blogs, other than this one and DA.  I do watch a lot of political commentary from various network/cable channels.  It’s those “talking heads’ and their various political expert panels who I’m referring to. I don’t know enough about blogs to comment on them.  And while I do know several liberals (normal people, not pundits) who absolutely adore MoDo, it’s quite possible I was assuming everyone adored her since the people around me do.

    As I said, I wasn’t trying to make this a political thang, and I wasn’t using ‘liberal media’ as a perjorative term anyway—more of a descriptive statement,  since the majority of people in the media tend to be liberal. (And no, I can’t be bothered to prove it, tho I think it could be done.)

    I would be thrilled if everyone gave this the outrage it deserves.  I’m just cynical enough to think they won’t. Time will tell, I suppose.

    My point was simply that because the stolen statment refers to something that so many want to get behind, most might be less willing to have it brought to attention.  I am (ignorantly, since I don’t read them) assuming that because it is political, it will be more likely to be amplified by those who disagree and covered up by those who agree.  To me, the fact that it pertains to politics makes it more polarizing.

    But it would be far from the first time for me to be wrong.  I hope the consequences are severe in ALL areas, from politics to romance to whatever else. 

    Plagiarism should never be tolerated anywhere, any time, or for any reason.

    sleep deprived and heading off now before I cause more problems

  11. 11

    Oh dear.
    Plagiarism is wrong. Period. (That’s what you say in your book anyway, so I’m just paraphrasing you back to you, not plagiarising you or anything.)

    People who do the cut and paste and don’t attribute = Wrong. Plagiarism. Bad Karma.

    Some people think there needs to be some kind of word limit before it becomes plagiarism. Like, I dunno, the first 100 words are a freebie or something.

    Um. No.

    If you copy someone else’s work (paragraphs, copyrighted characters, established worlds, theories etc) without attributing it, it’s plagiarism.

    You may also be breaching someone’s copyright, which also adds to the mess.

    Ideas on the other hand – go for it. Boy meets girl. Been done to death. Not a problem. Just an idea, so go ahead and use it. It’s what you do with an idea that makes it yours.

    Yes, we are human. Everyone can make a mistake. There are times when I’m writing and I think ‘jeez, that was good. Hell, it’s too good. It can’t possibly be mine. Maybe I’ve channelled it from somewhere.’ So you know what I do? I copy and paste the line into google over there in the top searchy button spot in the corner and it takes all of five minutes to find out if it is mine, or I’ve channelled it from someone and not realised.

    So now I’ve outed myself as paranoid, but I think this is a good thing. Perhaps the reason more authors don’t slam plagiarism is because the ‘I must have channelled it’ excuse hits a nerve and people think ‘gosh, maybe I’ve been a plagiarist and not realised, in which case, I’d better shut up and lay low because the screaming haters will come after me if I say anything’.

    Or something to that effect.

    But, come on people. (Again, not an original thought at all). Stop copying other people. Please. Stop it.

  12. 12
    snarkhunter says:

    Lord. Here we go again.

    You know what I think is behind this? A decided lack of respect for bloggers as, you know, actual writers. Dowd would almost certainly not have stolen from a writer published in a traditional medium. But bloggers look like fair game. (They’re not, of course, but that’s beside the point.)

    (And FWIW, as a liberal who hates Maureen Dowd in a “get off my side—you’re making it look bad” kind of way, I admit to a rather unholy glee at this.)

  13. 13
    Teresa says:

    For every plagiarism scandal, there follows a flurry of discussion of the excuses. Is the excuse a valid one? Is it a lie? Is it simply a lame excuse.

    The thing I love about copyright law is that excuses do not matter. There is no intent requirement in the law and most excuses go to intent.

    Dowd’s excuse is different because it really goes to access. She is saying that she did not read the blog. To prove copyright infringement you need to show two things—access and substantial similarity. No question that there is substantial similarity in this case, but Dowd is saying she had no access.

    At least she had no direct access. She had this friend who suggested she include this point in her column. Personally, I don’t think it is stealing to take a suggestion from a friend in this context. I do it all the time when I’m brainstorming with friends about my fiction. I even use specific wording that my friends suggest when they are critiquing my work. They also use my suggestions. There is no expectation of credit being given or anything of the sort. The suggestion is given to be used and the author may use it or not.

    I think Dowd is claiming the suggestion was made in this spirit by her friend. The problem here of course, is that the suggestion was not original to her friend. It wasn’t her friend’s original work to give. The friend in fact read the blog and passed along this line from the blog. So—what we end up with is Dowd actually having access to the blog she didn’t read.

    Even though she didn’t read it, she did hear the line through her friend. That is access. In reading the full account of Dowd’s apology, I think she admits that as well. She says that she should have credited the original author. That credit has been added to the web version of the article and an apology and credit will be included in the print version as well.

    This satisfies my sense of justice. I feel Dowd has owned up to her mistake and by giving credit is making it clear the work isn’t hers. Should there be some sort of payment? That is really up to the parties to work out. What was the value of that one sentence to that issue of the Times? In what way has the blogger been damaged? Are we all just upset because Dowd hasn’t been humiliated enough?

    Of course plagiarism is wrong and it must be taken seriously. But tarring and feathering doesn’t seem necessary. Not in a situation where the plagiarist admits she is wrong and corrects the error.

  14. 14
    JoanneL says:

    Adding another chance to guzzle in the drinking game stated above:
    Dowd can take the path of Boston Globe columnist Mike Barnicle and call it laziness, resign and get a high paying job on tv.

  15. 15
    lustyreader says:

    I do wonder how much coverage this SNAFU will really get, sadly I predict your last reaction “this isn’t the issue we need to talk about and it’s not important,” mostly because, as snarkhunter and others may have mentioned she copied “just a blogger.”

    It seems to me that bloggers are the ones with the MOST original opinions and the media/hollywood/etc are the ones recycling everything.

  16. 16
    BevBB says:

    The ones who love her are other pundits.  That’s a group that really sticks together.

    I think the terms you gals are looking for are Old Media vs New Media. Irrespective of political affiliations or left-right leanings, those refer to the differences in usage of the Internet technologies available today. Old media are generally the previously established newspapers, TV networks and wire services while new media are the bloggers, social networking and other purely Internet based newcomers.

    The distinction and impact on this discussion is that many from the Old Media has a tendency even with their online articles to be resistant to linking to sources – especially if those sources are from the upstart New Media who many times are scooping them on the stories nowadays. In contrast the New Media might have a tendency to overlink at times but that’s the very nature of the beast.

    Doesn’t mean that those in New Media can’t and don’t plagarize but it does mean that the tendency against not linking in Old Media is definitely part of the mindset behind the problem here. To call something like this plagarism means they’d have to start doing something they don’t want to do in the first place – acknowledge the existence of something they’re trying to ignore by actually linking to it. Hence the “my friend told me” instead of “I read it myself” bit. It’s sort of link a gossip inference. I didn’t actually hear it so I can’t tell you were it came from – alas no link.

    Bull. But very common in Old Media.

    Now, that doesn’t mean they’re all that way. Those that want to survive are slowly coming around and beginning to adapt and it’s very easy to see which ones. For one thing, some still have strong journalistic standards in place to begin with about this type of thing. For another, they’re using linking more aggressively even to, gasp, bloggers and other New Media things on the Internet when there is a reason to.

    In other words, they’ve realized they can’t afford not to. It’s just that some of them haven’t gotten there yet.

  17. 17
    Leigh Anna says:

    I’m sticking my two cents in here, because a lot of the outrage expressed shows a lack of knowledge of what writers do.

    Writers are never wholly original.  There aren’t that many original thoughts out there.

    It also doesn’t happen in a vacuum and borrowing from a friend is not unethical.  When my friends come out with witty and beautiful lines I *usually* laugh and tell them, “I’m going to steal that.”  And they let me.  Most of them aren’t writers and aren’t going to use it again.  They are happy to let their good lines live on in my work.  Those that are writers already know, since they’ve stolen lines off of me.

    This back and forth is constant between writing and discussing and rewriting based on things friends said, and I understand why Dowd would not want to name the friend in question.

    As for the commas, they are around the dependent clause.  Where else should they go?

    So I find her explanation plausible.  Whether or not that is what really happened, no one but Dowd and her “friend” knows.  But it’s entirely plausible.

  18. 18
    Lori says:

    @Diane; I’m sorry that I misunderstood. I have sort of a knee-jerk reaction to the term “liberal media” and I should have controlled that better. The plagiarism thing made me cranky and I hadn’t had enough sleep either and somewhere in there I lost the ability to be appropriately civil.

  19. 19

    @Leigh Anne—I think you raise some valid points.  Quoting a friend isn’t necessarily plagiarism or unethical, and all of life can be grist for the writer’s mill.  When I went back and read the two quotes side-by-side though, it struck me as odd that the phrasing and sentence structure would have been exactly the same, except for one or two changed words.

    If nothing else it should be a wake-up call to all of us to be more careful about our writing, and to give proper attribution when it’s called for.

  20. 20
    Silver James says:

    Oy. Ditto to all of the above.

  21. 21
    Nora Roberts says:

    It’s difficult for me to believe that the friend used all the same words in the same order as the TPM piece in her conversation. Same words, same order—which would be a quote. And a fairly long quote to toss into a conversation without saying: Like I read in TPM.

    It’s difficult for me to believe that Dowd used the same words in the same order as her friend in a conversation, unless that conversation included note-taking. And even then, it’s difficult for me to understand why a journalist would use someone’s exact words in the exact order as if they were her own.

    I’ve already read several comments on other sites that boil down to: We have more important things to talk about! She couldn’t have done it because she’s too experienced. Torture is the point, so really, by doing this she’s given the torture debate more exposure.

    Excuses, justifications, rationalizations. As usual.

  22. 22
    Janet W says:

    Thank you for raising this issue again and again—it makes me go back to rethink stories in my own life that were irritating but now make my blood boil. Case in point. There’s a travel writer in my home town. Back in the day, she and all the other mums would sit around and chit chat while our kids swam at swim meets—believe me, that’s a lot of time. Now this tale is 2nd, maybe 3rd hand but one of the mums is/was an incredible traveller—Thailand, Russia, you name it and she organized everything beautifully in advance, got the most out of the trip yadda yadda. And wrote fascinating, beautiful, information letters about them. Yep, I’m sure you can see where this story is going: her account lifted kit and kaboodle into the traveler writer’s latest book (back them). Years have passed, I’m not sure if I could even figure out what country or what book but the point remains. It has always bugged the hell out of me and I daresay it’s WAY more common than we suspect.

    As for Miz Dowd, come on, a full sentence with one word changed—my only question now is how HOT google is going to be today with everyone running her every last column through the meat grinder. I doubt very much that this is the one and only time it’s happened. But then that’s me, a realistic cynic.

  23. 23
    Lori says:

    I don’t think anyone expected Dowd to name her friend. And of course people pick up ideas in conversation.  However, I think there’s a big difference between saying something like, “I was talking to a friend the other day and we had this conversation” and “Here’s my great idea.”

  24. 24
    BevBB says:

    There’s also a big difference between working on a typewriter and working at a computer on the Internet – or, heck, an office intranet – nowadays where it only takes a couple of clicks to link to the source in question. Instant source and attribution – especially when one is talking about another website as the source.

    See, this is where the problem comes in with regards to the disconnect between Old and New because one of their arguments will invariably be – oh, but it was published in newspaper so linking isn’t an issue—

    Like they aren’t composing it on a computer originally? Like it doen’t also go out on the web?

    They try to make it sound like they’re still pre-Internet when everyone knows they’re not.

  25. 25

    So now it’s “my friend made me do it” ?  Okay.

  26. 26
    BevBB says:

    I was waiting because I knew someone would post about the old/new connection: 

    The myth of the parasitical bloggers

    I’m not sure I agree with him about the ethics involved but he definitely captures problems regarding the flow of information back and forth.

  27. 27
    snarkhunter says:

    I’m sticking my two cents in here, because a lot of the outrage expressed shows a lack of knowledge of what writers do.

    Writers are never wholly original.  There aren’t that many original thoughts out there.

    …you say this on a blog owned and frequented by writers? Seriously?

    I have no problem with Dowd borrowing her friend’s words, assuming that the friend was aware of and willing to have her words borrowed. Of course, the problem here is that Dowd didn’t borrow her friend’s words. Her friend—if said person exists—stole someone else’s words, passed them off as his/her own, and then Dowd borrowed them.

    Nobody is wholly original, but there’s coincidence and then there’s this.

  28. 28
    Nora Roberts says:

    ~I’m sticking my two cents in here, because a lot of the outrage expressed shows a lack of knowledge of what writers do.~

    I’ve got a pretty decent handle on what writers do. I also suspect Sarah, as a long-time and successful blogger who’s co-authored a book has one, too.

    Brainstorming with pals, or flipping off lines—using the I’m using that one—isn’t at all the same as reporting or commentating using someone else’s words, structure, voice as if it came from you. It simply isn’t the same.

    And while there may not be that many original ideas—thought we could debate that, too—I certainly believe there’s plenty of ways to express those ideas, to articulate them, to structure them.

    Josh Marshall wrote: More and more the timeline is raising the question of why, if the torture was to prevent terrorist attacks, it seemed to happen mainly during the period when we were looking for what was essentially political information to justify the invasion of Iraq.

    Rephrasing that while making the same point—a good point—just isn’t that hard:

    Many ask if torture was approved in an attempt to prevent terrorist attacks and save American lives, why the emerging timeline indicates these methods were utilized during the period the Bush administration sought political muscle to justify invading Iraq.

    I’m not a political commentator, so I’m sure this could be articulated more cleanly, and with more punch. But it only took me a minute.

  29. 29
    SB Sarah says:

    This satisfies my sense of justice. I feel Dowd has owned up to her mistake and by giving credit is making it clear the work isn’t hers.

    I disagree. I don’t think she has owned up to her mistake because her reasoning and excuse doesn’t hold enough water. It’s one thing to hear a phrase or an argument from another person, but in the side-by-side comparison, the phrasing is damn near identical. Commas in the same place with three words swapped out, as johnsonwax pointed out on Kos.

    That’s too identical to the believable result of a friend’s comment in a phone conversation during her writing process.

    It’s not a question of whether she’s been “humiliated enough.” My point is, her excuse does not satisfy me. I think it’s bullshit. It’s a stupid, boneheaded thing to do no matter what the excuse, and the lameness of the excuse just makes it worse.

    To quote Jim Anderson’s blog entry, the new excuse for plagiarism shouldn’t be “No, I didn’t copy it from that guy. I copied it from somebody else.”

    I’m sticking my two cents in here, because a lot of the outrage expressed shows a lack of knowledge of what writers do.

    As a writer, published author, and blogger I find her behavior unacceptable and her excuse even less so.

  30. 30
    Silver James says:

    Update on the reporting of Dowd’s “faux pas”… Fox News covered, as predicted, stating that all but three words were exactly the same. Coincidence? Only if she was sharing his brain! Fox didn’t dwell on it beyond saying Dowd had issued an excuse…er…statement.

    spam word: cent77 Yeah, I’ll put my 77 cents worth in to this debate!

    Nora, I <3 you for your willingness to stick to your guns!

  31. 31
    Jonquil says:

    Language Log takes her to the cleaners.  “As a college professor, I’ve heard many excuses for plagiarism over the years, but I don’t believe that I’ve ever heard one quite that lame.”  With withering detail…

  32. 32
    Leigh Anna says:

    For clarification:

    My previous comment was directed towards the statements saying Dowd using her friend’s line (had it truly been original to the friend) was unethical and that a writer getting ideas from anywhere other than her own brilliantly original brain in a complete vacuum was wrong.  As has been pointed out to me several times now, there is a difference, and I wanted to clarify that difference for those who expressed anger at the idea a writer’s work may not be entirely original all the time, rather than anger at the plagiarism itself.

    I said her explanation was plausible.  I’m not picking at pieces of wording to decide whether or not she could have recreated it that closely second-hand.  I’m not saying the readers shouldn’t be outraged at the plagiarism (intended or not).  I haven’t stated my opinion on Dowd’s case one way or the other. 

    Yes, Nora, I believe both you and Sarah understand what writer’s do.

  33. 33
    Lori says:

    So the situation made the front page of Yahoo news, but the headline made me bang my head on the desk again.


    “NY Times columnist admits using blogger’s words”

    “Using blogger’s words” Yeah, there’s a name for that. Oy.

    theory37: Yes, it seems like there are at least 37 theories about why people plagiarize.

  34. 34
    Randi says:

    What I don’t get are the people who think because she’s a journalist, she couldn’t possibly have plagerized! I mean, I’m pretty naive, but just because someone is published, doesn’t mean doo doo about their ethics. I just don’t get this mindset AT ALL.

  35. 35
    BevBB says:

    What I don’t understand about all of this is how seemingly intelligent people don’t get that if they can find things on the Internet, everyone else can find them too. That people who are interested in the same topics are all reading the same blogs and source material in the first place. It doesn’t take “googling” to be found out nowadays.

    Then again, maybe that’s why there is an old media and a new media. Some people haven’t figured it out yet.

    That’s too identical to the believable result of a friend’s comment in a phone conversation during her writing process.

    I don’t know exactly where I saw it because I’ve seen so many articles on this today but one of them speculated that it was possible the passage was passed in a “text” type conversation, maybe IMing or something along that lines. Which could conceiveably make her honest but still guilty of using directly lifted material. Knowingly or knowingly, does it really matter?

    To me it’s the mindset that’s developed that one person’s thoughts and words are worth less than another’s and can simply be lifted without acknowledgement of any kind. And, like Sarah said, sure she apologized but of what worth is that apology? What is essentially being said is that if no one had caught it, it wouldn’t have mattered because my friend gave it to me – I didn’t get it from that source you’re all talking about. That’s about as backhanded as one can get.

  36. 36
    BevBB says:

    Uh, that should be “knowingly or unknowingly”
    Sheesh.  😉

  37. 37
    Strategerie says:

    I’m an author. I’m also a blogger. I ALWAYS attribute if I am excerpting someone else’s comments from another blog or a news article or posting a photo, and there is a four-paragraph “fair use” rule as well. It is the right thing to do. Period.

    I can’t believe Maureen Dowd thought she wouldn’t get caught. First of all, it’s wrong. Secondly, does she have any idea how many people read TPM daily?

    Thirdly, I am Josh Marshall’s fangirl. The guy’s incredible.


  38. 38
    Lori says:

    I don’t know exactly where I saw it because I’ve seen so many articles on this today

    But you know that you didn’t think it up. If only everyone could keep that simple concept clear we wouldn’t keep having these incidents.

  39. 39
    JulieT says:

    But oh, Lordy, hell hath no kerfuffle like the seething torment of a left-wing or right-wing political blog.

    Bwahahahaha. Thanks for that.

    You’re right, we’ve been down this road before, here, but I’ll say it again: is it so bleeding hard to just NOTE YOUR DAMN SOURCES AND USE SOME QUOTATION MARKS?? That’s all it takes, people! And, shit, I do better research than that for my blog, and I don’t even get PAID.

  40. 40
    BevBB says:

    But you know that you didn’t think it up. If only everyone could keep that simple concept clear we wouldn’t keep having these incidents.

    Actually, while I understand what you’re saying, Lori, I tend to lean towards this being more about the ongoing battle between the new/old medias than simply about attribution.

    Why? Because while you’re exactly right that I know I didn’t think it up even though I can’t remember where I found it, I also know and respect the technology enough to recognize that I could probably find the source within a relatively few clicks of the mouse if the need truly arose.

    But, and here’s the important point, it doesn’t matter to me what that source might be. It does matter to them, though.

    This isn’t about politics or viewpoints or agreeing or disagreeing, either. There is a mindset that’s been around for awhile on the Internet for a long time which seems to be totall ingrained in the old media which can be summed up one word – money. People have long equated linking with losing visitor hits to other sites. Which is absolutely and utterly ridiculous because it’s totally counter to the meaning and purpose the Internet but there it is.

    Simple, basic rule, the site that links the most is the site that leads the way so visitors come back for more information, which is why we now have a new media replacing the old one that just doesn’t get it.

    But it’s also why this is about a resistance to linking to the sources they don’t even want to acknowledge as it is simple attribution of a source. How can they quote something from elsewhere from the web if they don’t acknowledge those places in the first place? As if only parts of the web exist and others don’t?

    It’s not unlike the blindness and ignorance that goes on about romance novels.

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