Former Newsweek editor says his writing appeared under Zakaria’s byline

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Former Newsweek senior editor Jerry Adler tells Daniel D’Addario he wrote a piece for the magazine that ran under Fareed Zakaria’s byline in 2010, an introduction “for a stand-alone commemorative issue on the environment pegged to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report.”

Knowing full well that the piece would go out under Mr. Zakaria’s name, the two-time National Magazine Award finalist says, he wrote the five-paragraph piece, never discussing it with the putative author. “He made some changes, maybe. But he didn’t say, ‘Do this and don’t tell anyone.’ It came to me through channels.”

Tony Emerson was managing editor of Newsweek International, which Zakaria edited. He tells D’Addario, “In team journalism there’s a lot of debates over who deserves the byline. It sounds to me like he could have pitched in with Fareed and is angry he wasn’t credited for his contributions.”

For what it’s worth, I spoke with Adler last Wednesday after an anonymous tip pointed me to him, and he didn’t sound in the least angry about Zakaria; “This happened all the time,” he told me about byline-swapping. He said he had “no firsthand knowledge” of Zakaria’s byline landing atop anyone else’s work, and said “I don’t consider it a mortal sin.”

“It’s not clear to me anyone was hurt by this,” Adler said.

Adler told D’Addario he thought Newsweek’s business side had promised Zakaria’s byline to advertisers for the issue. “It was an advertising vehicle, a revenue-producing deal made by the business side at a time when Newsweek was desperately trying to keep its head above water,” former Newsweeker Fred Guterl told D’Addario. Guterl also said he remembered Zakaria writing the intro.

But “team journalism,” as Emerson describes it, makes a certain economic sense, especially when one member of the team is a star. Peter Osnos writes about the near-impossibility of an entrepreneurial journalist like Zakaria doing all the work assigned to him, a point Zakaria made himself earlier this week just before resigning from the Yale board. Osnos writes:

I wonder if it really is possible to do so many things at once: columns, daily blog posts, a full schedule of television appearances and Internet videos, speeches around the country (and the world), and books intended to make a splash. There are also outside activities (or jobs) that take administrative or editorial time. The aggregation of all these activities can be enormously lucrative, but there is also a competitiveness among the cohort — and their principal employers — that seems to drive them to take on more roles than frankly makes sense.

One of the activities Zakaria won’t be giving up is his weekly CNN gig. Christopher Zara writes that if history is any guide, his first day back will give a lift, though probably a short-lived one, to the ratings-challenged network. The bar has really lowered for compliments about CNN, which Tuesday was praised by many for putting an empty chair on-air.

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  • Anonymous

    I ghost-wrote a Publisher’s Memo for five years at a news magazine under the Publisher’s byline. I never had a problem with that. In fact, once when we got sued (through no fault of my own), he was the one who had to testify!

  • Anonymous

    “Adler told D’Addario he thought Newsweek’s business side had promised Zakaria’s byline to advertisers for the issue.”

    I guess it’s OK then.
    They didn’t promise the advertiser’s Mr. Zakaria’s work.

    What’s the difference between this and what Journatic did with its fake bylines?

    I guess it’s OK if Newsweek does it for money but not OK when Journatic does it for money.

    The stuff that passes journalistic muster these days is amazing.

  • Anonymous

    Of course it’s not a sin. It happens all the time.