News next: a journalism teacher's diary

March 6, 2010

Stop, thief!

Filed under: None — Bernard L. Stein @ 11:46 am
Tags: , , , , ,

Illustration by Johnny Grim available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license.

On Feb. 2, the Miami Herald published a story that began “The widow of slain Fort Lauderdale businessman Ben Novack Jr. — a suspect in his death — won control of his $10 million fortune Monday, despite relatives’ efforts to cut her off without a dime.”

The Novack marriage had been “tumultuous,” the story said, and to prove it, continued:

In 2002, Narcy Novack and two others tied Novack Jr. to a chair, threatened to kill him and removed money from his safe, according to the police report.

Later that same day, the Daily Beast, celebrity editor Tina Brown’s year-old e-zine, which claims a readership of nearly four million, published a story by its chief investigative reporter Gerald Posner, headlined “The Murder Mystery Rocking Miami.” It included this passage:

There is little doubt the Novacks had a volatile relationship. In 2002, 11 years into their marriage, Narcy and two others tied Ben Jr. to a chair, threatened to kill him and took money from his safe, according to the police report filed at the time.

Three days later, the on-line magazine Slate busted Posner, who resigned and declared he had “inadvertently, but repeatedly, violated my own high standards.” (more…)


Stop, thief, continued

Gerald Posner's Facebook photo

When award-winning writer Gerald Posner admitted that he had plagiarized a substantial part of his story about a sensational murder case from the Miami Herald, he blamed the World Wide Web.

The core of my problem was in shifting from that of a book writer – with two years or more on a project – to what I describe as the “warp speed of the net.”

That’s like a carpenter blaming his hammer when he hits his thumb.

Here’s how Posner describes his working methods, the methods he says made him an “accidental plagiarist.”

For the Beast articles, I created master electronic files, which contained all the information I developed about a topic – that included interviews, scanned documents, published articles, and public information. I often had master files that were 15,000 words, that needed to be cut into a story of 1,000 to 1500 words.

In the compressed deadlines of the Beast, it now seems certain that those master file were a recipe for disaster for me. It allowed already published sources to get through to a number of my final and in the quick turnaround I then obviously lost sight of the fact that it belonged to a published source instead of being something I wrote.


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