Fareed Zakaria Responds to the Charge of Quote-Stealing

By Jeffrey Goldberg

In my previous post, I discussed an incident from 2009 (an incident I had completely forgotten about until it was resurrected by The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times, among others) in which Fareed Zakaria, who is currently under fire for plagiarizing a paragraph from The New Yorker, lifted, without attribution, two quotations from pieces I had written. I argued that quote-lifting, or quote-theft, is widely considered to be a journalistic sin, and should be considered so. Fareed disagrees, and he e-mailed me this response a few minutes ago (at the time, back in 2009, he didn't respond, and it didn't come up in subsequent conversaions I had with him, mainly because I forgot about it, I think). Here is what Fareed just e-mailed:

I think it is quite untrue that it is standard journalistic practice to name the interviewer when quoting from an interview. Look through the New Yorker, the New York Times, or any other prestigious publication and you will see that most quotes from interviews do NOT mention the name of the interviewer. This is a subject close to my heart since I interview people every Sunday. On Monday, we get clips of the papers, magazines, and blogs that quote from these interviews. Most do not mention my name. Many do not even mention CNN. They simply say, "In an interview, "Mr. X said. . ."  I wish they did but they don't."
 
Let me give you the best example from my own work: I have twice interviewed the Chinese Premier, Wen Jiabao. These are tough interviews to set up and take months, something years. The interviews were quoted in hundreds of newspapers and magazines across the world. Less then 10% mentioned my name. So, I would welcome a new journalistic norm that insists that the interviewer always be named. But it's unfair to castigate me for doing something that is common, if not standard, practice.

Two notes: First, I would have been happy if he had attributed the interview to The Atlantic, and left my name out of it -- it is the news-gathering organization that matters more here than the individual reporter. The second point is this: I don't think the practice of non-attribution is quite so common as he thinks it is. It happens all the time, of course, but many writers are fastidious about correctly describing the provenance of a quotation. I agree, of course, that there should be more fastidiousness on this question, not less.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/08/fareed-zakaria-responds-to-the-charge-of-quote-stealing/261122/