Boston Globe won’t identify author of plagiarized editorial

The Boston Globe is unwilling to identify the author of a recent unsigned editorial that plagiarized from a story by NPR affiliate WBUR.

The paper recently placed an editor’s note on the editorial that said it “contained some similarities in phrasing and structure to an opinion piece by Todd Domke on The use of the material without attribution was inconsistent with Globe policies, and the Globe regrets the error.”

Globe editorial page editor Peter S. Canellos said in an email that, “Our policy is not to discuss internal disciplinary actions. But our editor’s note should speak for itself. There were similarities in structure and phrasing that shouldn’t have been used without attribution. We take these matters very seriously.”

I asked him to comment on the accuracy of a recent Free Republic article by Howie Carr, a conservative Boston radio talk-show host who contributes columns to the Boston Herald. Carr wrote that sources told him the author of the editorial is Globe columnist and Pulitzer winner Joan Vennochi. His story also said Vennochi was suspended for two weeks.

Canellos declined to identify the author or detail the punishment, if any.

iMediaEthics followed up with WBUR and a New York Times Co. spokesman for additional information. Neither source was willing to add details.

Times spokesman Robert Christie said, “We are not going to comment past the editor’s note.” WBUR’s general manager pointed to his organization’s online brief about the incident.

The Globe editor’s note does not use the word plagiarism, but as iMediaEthics writes “there are many phrases and sentences repeated verbatim from WBUR. Other sections are lightly rewritten.”

I asked Canellos if they consider this to be an incident of plagiarism, or something else.

“We characterized it exactly as we saw it, as having too many similarities to WBUR’s piece,” he said.

I also asked if they are reviewing the writer’s previous work to check for past problems.

“We are taking all appropriate steps, given what we know about this incident,” he said.

To summarize: the paper won’t name the writer, won’t detail any related discipline, won’t say if they’re reviewing previous work, and won’t call it plagiarism.

Vennochi did not respond to a phone message left earlier this week. Her most recent column was published August 23, according to her online archive, and she hasn’t tweeted since August 20.

If she is the writer and her column disappears for a reported two weeks, shouldn’t Globe readers be told why? Shouldn’t they also be made aware that the paper is holding someone accountable for a breach of its policies?

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  • Bob Nelson

    For the record the Carr column was released on his email list. I posted it to Free Republic. Howie mentioned on air that people can see the article on his email list, “or ask your friends to forward it to you”. He may not have been aware I had posted it on FR

  • Clayton Burns

    If The Boston Globe can produce only one current plagiarist, it is falling behind Harvard, which may have 125, according to The NYT today.
    What seems extremely curious and odd is the lack of understanding that this is a systemic issue.
    Harvard, Yale, Columbia, and Princeton should show leadership by initiating an audit of practices during the rest of 2012.
    The most foolish practice is the lack of formal admissions curricula.
    To get into any of these four you should have to master either a standard or an honors admissions curriculum, both of which should be supported in residential or online summer courses for high school students.
    Let me give you an example. A text I consider to be excellent for Ivy League close study is “The Great Gatsby,” even more relevant with the film coming up.
    I would deny that in American schools students are being taught to perform deep and sensitive readings of this remarkable novel, if not as good as the best of Henry James’s late fiction, at least in the same class.
    I suggest that writers at CJR and Poynter do the file on Fitzgerald’s “Gatsby.”
    Daisy tells us that Tom likes deep books with long words:
    –’What was that word we–’… [Re 'The Rise of the Coloured Empires'(?)]
    My choice for Daisy’s invidious word is ‘miscegenation.’
    Argue that that is or is not a plausible choice.
    Explain how “Ode to a Nightingale” illuminates “Gatsby.”
    Until we learn how to do the files, we will be “borne back ceaselessly into the past.”