Buried in Paul Farhi's "is he wrong?" story about suspended Time columnist and CNN host Fareed Zakaria's failure to attribute quotes in his 2008 book The Post-American World, is the news that Zakaria's column won't be on The Washington Post's pages this month, as well as what appears to be Zakaria's first defense of his work.
As Farhi explains, Post-American World lifted quotes from a 2006 book by Clyde V. Prestowitz called Three Billion New Capitalists: The Great Shift of Power to The East. Zakaria explained the lack of attribution this way: "As I write explicitly [in the book], this is not an academic work where everything has to be acknowledged and footnoted." And Zakaria adds that inserting those quotes, and indicating the interviews from which they came, would "interrupt the flow for the reader."
With this approach, Zakaria sounds a lot different than when we last heard from him, as he apologized profusely to historian Jill Lepore, his readers, and his employers for lifting passages and poorly paraphrasing parts of a feature she wrote for The New Yorker about the NRA. There (stick with us) Zakaria quoted her insight about a book written by lawyer-author Adam Winkler and Zakaria's passage included Winkler quotes, (which we'd argue isn't the transgression) but it also includes the language, build-up and conclusions that Lepore was making/using (which we and Zakaria himself would argue is the flagrant no-no). And Zakaria stresses that not attributing quotes derived from someone's interviews and stealing someone's written words are two different things--and he's only sorry for one. But Zakaria's response today does give insight into the practice which The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg called the CNN host and Time columnist out on: Zakaria used the quotes Goldberg obtained from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu but did not give Goldberg credit. Zakaria continued:
"Please look at other books in this genre and you will notice that I'm following standard practice," he said.
"I should not be judged by a standard that's not applied to everyone else," he added. "People are piling on with every grudge or vendetta. The charge is totally bogus."
Farhi does mention that Zakaria did eventually footnote the floating quotes in an updated version of the book. Though we don't find out if that Zakaria's concession to making a footnote meant he felt like what he did was wrong.
Whew. Catch all of that? Well, there's more. "Zakaria also writes a separate column for The Washington Post. The newspaper said on Monday that his column will not appear this month," writes Farhi. So, if you're keeping count or if you're a loyal Zakaria-reader/viewer, this next month, media stories and investigations into his work not included, will be Fareed-free, as he's now been suspended from his three high-profile employers.
Update 1:24 p.m.: It appears that Zakaria has also cleared things up with The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg. We had reported that Zakaria used quotes drawn from a couple of Jeffrey Goldberg's interviews and not attributed credited Goldberg with obtaining them. Zakaria wrote Goldberg in an e-mail:
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.
Zakaria goes on to write that he's been a victim of quote-theft, and that "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."
Goldberg has the final word (that's what happens when you write the column), stating "First, I would have been happy if he had attributed the interview to The Atlantic ... it is the news-gathering organization that matters more here than the individual reporter." He adds:
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.
For Zakaria's full rebuttal, head on over to The Atlantic.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.