Friday, February 05, 2010

Gerald Posner admits he's guilty of plagiarism - inadvertent plagiarism, that is

Did you catch this today?
Veteran journalist Gerald Posner acknowledged today that he copied five sentences from a Miami Herald article this week for a piece he wrote for the Daily Beast. The Daily Beast appended an editor's note to the beginning of Posner's piece today, explaining that the copying was "inadvertent" and that the Daily Beast has deleted the copied passages.
Posner admitted that he had plagiarized, but with a twist. He didn't remember doing it. He said he clearly must have copied the text, but doesn't remember seeing that article, much less copying from it.

There are only two ways that can be true: he doesn't write his own stuff, or he has some short-term memory issues.

I'm a writer. I know what it's like to read someone else's information and then try to make it your own. I often copy quotes out verbatim in my notes specifically so I can avoid rephrasing them from memory in a way that too closely matches the original.

But to claim you don't remember, when you're writing a current news story? I mean, this isn't something he copied out ten years ago - this is a current news story. I find it hard to believe that Posner just didn't remember copying this (unless he really didn't write the piece). It's much easier to believe he was in a hurry, grabbed something useful, did some minor edits, thought it was good enough, and sent it out, not realizing people would spot the similarities.

Then he makes this odd mea culpa - yes, I'm guilty - I just don't remember doing it. That's kind of like the thief saying yes, I admit your pearls are in my pocket, I just don't remember putting them there.

And in what I consider the strangest turn of all, in many of the comments, his supporters say oh, isn't that wonderful, the thief confessed. How lovely. That makes it all better, right? Not in my book. Most thieves confess when caught. That takes no act of courage at all. There is simply no other option when you are caught red-handed.

And he doesn't really confess. He simply states the obvious - it's clearly plagiarism.

What's really shocking is that this is a story that Posner had already written about, to a degree:
Posner is no stranger to the story he plagiarized, having covered elements of it for his 2009 book Miami Babylon: Crime Wealth and Power—A Dispatch From the Beach. He has continued to gather material on it for the book's upcoming paperback edition. Citing primary documents in his possession and his own original reporting, he said that he didn't have to plagiarize the Herald to write his Beast story.
So why did he copy someone else's words at all? Curioser and curioser.


Post a Comment

<< Home