News next: a journalism teacher's diary

February 16, 2010

Scandal at The Times–again

Filed under: None — Bernard L. Stein @ 2:54 pm
Tags: , , ,

In a letter to Times executive editor Bill Keller, the editor of the Wall Street Journal, blew the whistle on a Times business reporter who lifted reporting from the Journal for the Times’ Website and the paper. The New York Observer was first to publish Journal editor Robert Thomson’s letter, which is now everywhere on the Web.

The Times responded with an editors note acknowledging that Kouwe “appears to have improperly appropriated wording and passages published by other news organizations.”

Two days later Kouwes resigned.

Take a look after the jump at the similarities and the differences between the passages Thomson cited.

Example 1:

Mr. Efrati wrote:

Mr. Picard said the family received about $141 million in the six months leading up to Mr. Madoff’s December 2008 arrest.

Mr. Kouwe wrote:

Mr. Picard said the family received about $141 million in the six months leading up to Mr. Madoff’s arrest in December 2008.

Example 2:

Mr. Efrati wrote:

The family members agreed not to transfer or sell property or assets valued at more than $1,000 or incur debts and obligations greater than $1,000 without approval of the trustee.

Mr. Kouwe wrote:

Under the agreement, the family members cannot transfer or sell property or assets valued at more than $1,000 or incur debts and obligations greater than $1,000 without approval of Mr. Picard.

Example 3:

Mr. Efrati wrote:

They are allowed to use credit cards for necessary living expenses.
The defendants also will provide the trustees with an accounting of their expenditures, the orders say.

Mr. Kouwe wrote:

They are allowed to use credit cards for necessary living expenses.
The defendants also will provide the trustee with an accounting of their expenditures.

Example 4:

Mr. Efrati wrote:

Last year Mr. Madoff’s wife, Ruth, also agreed to an asset freeze as part of a separate trustee’s $45 million lawsuit against her.

Mr. Kouwe wrote:

Last year, Mr. Madoff’s wife, Ruth, also agreed to an asset freeze as part of a separate trustee’s $45 million lawsuit against her.

Example 5:

Mr. Efrati wrote:

According to the trustee’s lawsuit, son Andrew Madoff invested just under $1 million into his Madoff investment accounts yet withdrew $17 million through “brazenly fabricated transactions.”

Mr. Kouwe wrote:

According to the trustee’s lawsuit, Andrew Madoff placed just under $1 million into his Madoff investment accounts yet withdrew $17 million through “brazenly fabricated transactions” over the years.

Example 6:

Mr. Efrati wrote:

Peter Madoff invested $32,146 into his acounts but redeemed more than $16 million in similar fashion, the trustee said.

Mr. Kouwe wrote:

Peter Madoff invested $32,146 into his accounts but redeemed more than $16 million, the trustee claims.

Note that the wording isn’t identical (although it is close). What Kouwe stole was Efrati’s original reporting.

When students troll the Web, they have to take care to attribute the source of their information, even when they rewrite or reshuffle the language of their sources.

Kouwe acknowledged that he was wrong, but said the thefts were inadvertent. I’ve heard that song before, when I’ve confronted students who lifted something from the Web.

“I was as surprised as anyone that this was occurring,” Kouwe told the Observer.

“I write essentially 7,000 words every week for the blog and for the paper and all that stuff. As soon as I saw, I guess, like six examples, I said to myself, ‘Man what an idiot. What I was thinking?

“Mr. Kouwe says he has never fabricated a story, nor has he knowingly plagiarized. “Basically, there was a minor news story and I thought we needed to have a presence for it on the blog,” he said, referring to DealBook. “In the essence of speed, I’ll look at various wire services and throw it into our back-end publishing system, which is WordPress, and then I’ll go and report it out and make sure all the facts are correct. It’s not like an investigative piece. It’s usually something that comes off a press release, an earnings report, it’s court documents.”

“I’ll go back and rewrite everything,” he continued. “I was stupid and careless and fucked up and thought it was my own stuff, or it somehow slipped in there. I think that’s what probably happened.”

“If you are writing your own story, you shouldn’t be downloading this stuff,” Jack Lynch, the news editor of DealBook, told Times’ Public Editor Clark Hoyt. “That’s asking for trouble.”

Advertisements

Leave a Comment »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: