3 Lessons from Gerald Posner's Plagiarism Scandal

Takeaways for a new era in journalism

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After getting caught plagiarizing, veteran reporter Gerald Posner has been dismissed from The Daily Beast. Early allegations from Slate columnist Jack Shafer provoked an in-house investigation that uncovered further instances of plagiarism. In wake of the scandal, bloggers and journalists are taking stock of the lessons learned.

  • The Internet Gives You 'Bum Reporting,' writes Jeff Bercovici at Daily Finance: "As newspapers and other bastions of old-school reporting downsize or disappear and are replaced by understaffed websites or underpaid bloggers, these sorts of incidents are only going to get more common. We, as news consumers, are either going to have to increase our tolerance for them or our willingness to pay up for the sort of well-sourced, credible journalism we're used to."
  • Old-School Journalism Must Learn from the New School, writes Michael Roston at True/Slant: "The reason bloggers don’t often plagiarize is that we don’t need to. We can make a point by piggy-backing off of factual statements or opinions from others, and easily make it clear that we didn’t say it first. If Posner had simply hyperlinked back to his sources in his Daily Beast stories – a process that I suspect is much more quick and easy to carry out than copying, pasting, and re-writing bits of the source material – we probably wouldn’t be talking about ‘Gerald Posner, Plagiarist’ now."
Most everybody concedes that plagiarism harms plagiarized writers by denying them due credit for original work. But Wasserman delineates the harm done to readers. By concealing the true source of information, plagiarists deny "the public insight into how key facts come to light" and undermines the efforts of other journalists and readers to assess the truth value of the (embezzled) journalistic accounts. In Wasserman's view, plagiarism violates the very "truth-seeking and truth-telling" mission of journalism.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.