Thayer accused of plagiarizing parts of article The Atlantic wanted to publish for free

Jeremy Duns | New York | CJR
Nate Thayer is a plagiarist,” says Jeremy Duns.

If you’ve been following media news this week, you know that Thayer ignited a debate by publicly berating The Atlantic for asking him to condense and republish an article for free on its website.

But that burning fire also cast some light and attention on what, exactly, it was that Thayer had written. Duns says it’s a good thing the Atlantic didn’t get the piece:

“The Atlantic dodged a bullet: Thayer’s article, ‘25 Years of Slam Dunk Diplomacy‘, is massively and unambiguously plagiarized from the article ‘The Oddest Fan‘ by Mark Zeigler, published by the San Diego Union-Tribune in 2006.”

The biggest issue seems to be that Thayer’s piece extensively uses quotes and information from sources in the original Union-Tribune piece. Many of the quotes did not make it clear that the source said those words, in 2006, to someone other than Thayer.

“Almost every quote and piece of research in Zeigler’s piece reappears in [Thayer's], and apart from … one detail about Michael Jordan none of it was cited when it was published,” Duns says.

Others have suggested similar concerns, though using different language. Felix Salmon said Thayer’s piece was “deeply indebted to” Zeigler’s 2006 piece. New York Magazine’s Joe Coscarelli says “at the very least, his citations are a bit sloppy.”

Coscarelli points to one clear-cut case where Thayer attributes a quote from Gene Schmiel of the U.S. State Department to “an interview this week.” The passages appear to match Ziegler’s earlier piece word-for-word.

But the editor of Thayer’s piece for NK News, Tad Farrell, tells CJR it might not have been Thayer’s fault:

Farrell said that Thayer was asked to write a piece about the role of basketball in North Korean diplomacy in the wake of Dennis Rodman’s recent visit there. Thayer came back with a 5,000-plus-word article that was then edited down and posted on the site, Farrell said.

Thayer did not see the article before it was posted. The editing process created “numerous attribution errors,” Farrell said, and Thayer pointed them out after the story was posted.

Thayer told CJR’s Sara Morrison, “I will defend to the death my reporting and attribution of this piece. Every allegation is answerable.”

Related: Juan Williams blames plagiarism on researcher (Huffington Post) | The plight of the researcher (The Washington Post) | How many columnists and pundits are actually plagiarists? (The American Prospect) |

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  • sargeh

    Many today are too quick to holler “plagiarism,” when upon closer examination that often is not true.

  • JTFloore

    ANYONE who writes can be nailed for plagiarism sooner or later, one way or another because EVERYONE takes/uses SOMETHING as their own that has already been written.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=749911534 facebook-749911534

    Look at it this way, Jeff, maybe Nate Thayer literally hasn’t been able
    to wrap his head around why a post that took him about 15 minutes to write on an irrelevant blog a few days ago has now gone viral to a few million people, and
    morphed into people accusing him of the most egregious of ethical
    journalistic errors — plagiarism. Ouch. There is not a scintilla of truth to the
    charge, which if one of these bloggers had bothered to actually call him or
    email him and ask him before writing it, would be easily shown to be pure 100%
    BS. But that would have made a nonstory into a nonstory — so they
    chose to go with it to meet their deadline, having no interest that it
    would permanently smear the reputation of someone who has spent 30 years
    pursuing his beloved profession.
    At the end, once someone actually does the leg work and asks, it is easily
    shown that Thayer has never plagiarized a single word in his entire career.
    Unfortunately, that will be too late to salvage his reputation, which has
    now been permanently damaged. One hopes they are enjoying their expense
    account after so-called work drinks. But you can bet that Nate will make sure
    these people will be shown to be wrong. Not that anyone gives a damn.