The elite media continues to further erode whatever moral authority it has by silently standing by Fareed Zakaria, whose instances of documented plagiarism (or “problematic sourcing”) are now so numerous I’ve lost count.
This week, The Washington Post was forced to go back and correct 5 columns they found “problematic in their absence of full attribution” to the writers Zakaria stole from. And the Post isn’t done. A full investigation is underway and already Fred Hiatt, The Post’s editorial page editor, has said,” [W]e probably will attach messages to the archived editions of the five original columns.”
The Daily Beast reminds that just a few months ago this same Fred Hiatt called the plagiarism charges “reckless.” Hiatt explained to the Beast, “In the first batch of columns that were posted, I did not think the allegations concerning the [Washington Post] columns had merit. The anonymous posters put up six new allegations yesterday, and we looked at those and felt, on preliminary look, that five of them were problematic.”
Hiatt was referring to two anonymous bloggers who write for Our Bad Media and are known by their Twitter pseudonyms @BlippoBlappo and @Crushingbort. Over the past few months, the two of them have tirelessly documented Zakaria’s plagiarism, offenses that occurred over nearly 20 years in meaningless columns about martinis to his scholarly books and columns to his weekly CNN television show.
Last month Newsweek found 7 articles that “borrow[ed] extensively without proper attribution” and slapped a warning on all of his work with a crowd-sourcing request to readers asking that they please notify the editors of any other offenses. Zakaria worked for the newsweekly as a columnist, and later as an editor, for 14 years.
Last month, CNN’s media reporter Brian Stelter “cleared” Zakaria of the allegations surrounding his CNN show “Fareed Zakaria 360.” Notably, Stelter did not take on the other charges.
In the summer of 2012, Zakaria was suspended by both CNN and Time for plagiarism.
Fareed Zakaria is a documented serial plagiarist. Still, despite countless instances of outright theft, the media continues to circle the wagons — either through silence or the manufacturing of Orwellian terms like “problematic sourcing.”
Meanwhile, as Our Bad Media points out, “the only people who’ve been punished so far for Zakaria’s plagiarism are the reporters covering it:”
That seemed to be confirmed this past Friday when Capital New York reported that Arianna Huffington, editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post, had taken disciplinary action against her own journalists for covering our work on Fareed Zakaria’s plagiarism. The official reason given according to Capital New York was that the writer didn’t reach out to Zakaria for comment. That’s pretty convenient for Zakaria, who has refused to comment on the story to even his own network.
Sources within HuffPo itself, however, say that “punitive actions were only taken after Huffington received complaints from … Zakaria,” and not because of the strict “general editorial standards” of a website that runs stories on 50-Cent agreeing to pee in a fan’s mouth. We’re more inclined to believe HuffPo’s staff’’s version of the story, especially given Huffington’s regular appearances on GPS. And so it stands that as of now, the only people to be punished for Fareed Zakaria’s plagiarism are journalists who made the mistake of reporting on it on his friend’s website.
Though they don’t mention themselves, @blippoblappo & @crushingbort have also been smeared as “reckless” by no less than the Washington Post.
Zakaria is an embarrassment to the institution of journalism. The fact that his presence continues to be tolerated through an industry-wide conspiracy that (with some exceptions) pretends that what’s happening isn’t, is a black mark on everyone.
Journalists make honest mistakes. It’s probably impossible to have any kind of career in media without making one. Moreover, in the fast-moving world of the Web, we all live in fear of accidentally forgetting to credit an idea or factoid. Everyone needs to forgive these instances because almost everyone is someday going to require that forgiveness.
Zakaria’s sins are so far beyond this they defy any kind of defense; which is why the media as a whole can only stick its shameful head in the sand in the hopes that @blippoblappo & @crushingbort will someday run out of material.
John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC