I teach a journalism ethics class at Duke University that focuses on issues of trust. I spend about half the semester exploring the pros and cons of anonymous sourcing, the other half on plagiarism and fabrication.
The plagiarism by Benny Johnson at BuzzFeed has not only prompted a new round of discussion about copying and pasting in the digital age, it involves an anonymous posse — two bloggers who call themselves @blippoblappo and @crushingbort. After BuzzFeed fired Johnson for 41 incidents of plagiarism, Blippo and Bort have been on a relentless crusade against columnist and CNN host Fareed Zakaria.
On Tuesday, BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith, Blippo and Bort spoke with my class in two separate conversations. Smith spoke first by Skype; Blippo and Bort opted for a Google chat to protect their identities.Smith was forthright about the firing of Johnson, saying it was clearly plagiarism. “Presenting someone else’s words as your own is such a basic form of dishonesty,” he said. Read more