The Washington Post

Plagiarism questions at Chicago paper owned by a state legislator

Better Government Association

Illinois state Sen. Steven M. Landek (D)

Illinois state Sen. Steven M. Landek (D)

The Better Government Association (BGA), a Chicago-based investigative journalism nonprofit, has accused the editors of the Desplaines Valley News of plagiarizing numerous stories in a series of unsigned editorials. The co-owners of the paper are Illinois state Sen. Steven M. Landek (D) and former Chicago Sun-Times editorial page editor Mark Hornung, who resigned from that position in 1995 after being accused of plagiarism.

In the article published yesterday, reporters with the BGA claimed that 14 editorials published in the suburban weekly contained similar or identical language found in stories published by other news outlets around the country, including The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The New York Times, BuzzFeed, and seven additional journals and web sites.

As the editorials were unsigned, there’s no direct indication that Hornung authored any of the pieces. The BGA story cites an unnamed “person familiar with the paper’s operation,” who claims that Hornung writes many of the Valley News editorials himself.

The BGA also raised ethical questions about the newspaper’s habit of accepting advertising from cities in Landek’s district. In addition, the BGA noted that the Village of Bridgeview, where Landek also serves as mayor, has hired Hornung as a “consultant.”

Hornung’s previous problems with plagiarism occured in 1995, when he resigned as editorial page editor of the Chicago Sun-Times after he was caught lifting significant passages from a Washington Post editorial and including them in one of his columns. He then became vice president of circulation for the newspaper until 2001, when he became publisher of the Daily Southtown, which was owned by Hollinger International Inc., then the parent company of the Sun-Times. Hornung was forced to resign as publisher amid Sun-Times officials admitted that under his leadership, the paper overstated its circulation figures.

Neither Hornung nor Landek responded to requests from Poynter for comment for this story. But on March 11, after it became clear that the BGA was investigating the plagiarism charges, Landek published a short announcement in the Desplaines Valley News. “Our unsigned editorial page contained similarities in topics and facts from stories featured openly in the national debate,” Landek admitted. “We should have cited more of our source material in our unsigned pieces.”

Landek has also promised that the paper has “removed archived content from our website following a request from a publisher” and “tightened internal controls regarding unsigned content.”

Related: Is it original? An editor’s guide to identifying plagiarism

Correction: Headline originally said legislature and has been changed to legislator. Read more

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Jeff Bezos

SXSW report: Washington Post’s digital numbers even better than officials claimed

According to Capital New York, Washington Post Executive Editor Martin Baron and Chief Information Officer Shailesh Prakash gave a presentation at the South by Southwest Interactive festival on how the technological innovations introduced by Jeff Bezos have changed the newspaper’s fortunes. And they made a remarkable claim: according to numbers produced by comScore, the Post’s number of unique visitors jumped 71 percent in a single year, to roughly 42.6 million in December.

But according to comScore, the Post’s numbers are even better if you look at what happened in February. comScore Vice President of Marketing and Insights Andrew Lipsman claims that in February, The Washington Post’s number of unique visitors jumped to more than 48 million, a 63 percent increase over the same month last year. The paper is closing in on The New York Times, which logged 59.5 million unique visitors last month but has been growing much more slowly. Meanwhile, the BBC’s unique visitors are lagging behind at 34.1 million, and the Los Angeles Times actually lost unique visitors in the last 12 months, posting just under 23.2 million for February. But BuzzFeed still beat them all with 81.7 million unique visitors last month.

Correction: In a previous version of this story, Capital New York reported that The Washington Post received 42.6 million unique visitors in January 2015. Capital New York has since corrected its reporting to assert that, in fact, The Washington Post received 42.6 million unique visitors in December 2014. This story has been amended to reflect that correction. Read more

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Career Beat: Nathan Brown named general manager of video at HuffPost Studios

Good morning! Here are some career updates from the journalism community:

  • Nathan Brown is now general manager of video at HuffPost Studios. Previously, he was general manager of video and TV for Complex Media. Roy Sekoff is now president and chief creative officer of HuffPost Studios. Previously, he was president of HuffPost Live. (Email)
  • David Firestone will be managing editor of FiveThirtyEight. Previously, he was special projects editor of The New York Times editorial board. (Poynter)
  • Leon Wieseltier is now the Isaiah Berlin Senior Fellow in Culture and Policy at the Brookings Institution. Previously, he was literary editor of The New Republic. (Politico)
  • Rich Battista will be president of People and Entertainment Weekly. He is CEO of Mandalay Sports Media. (Time Inc.)
  • Mike Madden will be deputy editor of Outlook and PostEverything at The Washington Post. He is editor of Washington City Paper. (Washington City Paper)

Job of the day: Nashville Public Radio is looking for an enterprise reporter. Get your résumés in! (Journalism Jobs)

Send Ben your job moves: bmullin@poynter.org Read more

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Rajiv Chandrasekaran to leave The Washington Post

Rajiv Chandrasekaran, a senior correspondent and associate editor at The Washington Post, is leaving the paper to create a media company that will partner with Starbucks:

In a post on his Facebook page, Chandrasekaran writes that the new company will produce “nonfiction, social-impact content, some of it in partnership with the Starbucks Coffee Co.” The company will start with producing television and film projects around Chandrasekaran’s 2014 book “For Love of Country: What Our Veterans Can Teach Us About Citizenship, Heroism and Sacrifice.”

Chandrasekaran has had several jobs at The Post, including national editor, assistant managing editor and Baghdad bureau chief, according to his website. He is also the author of “Imperial Life in the Emerald City,” a book about the post-invasion reconstruction of Iraq, which won the Overseas Press Club book award and was a finalist for the National Book Award.

He also covered the David Petraeus affair for The Washington Post, chronicling the scandal’s affect on other military officials, the lifestyle perks afforded a top general and the embattled official’s consultation of civilian military analysts. Read more

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The New York Times will expand its comment section

The New York Times

The New York Times intends to “expand and build” on its commenting system, providing readers with more stories to opine on, New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan wrote Wednesday.

New York Times community editor Bassey Etim tells Sullivan the Times will double the number of stories open for readers to comment on “by the end of the summer,” and added that the paper will make attempts to “elevate and recognize” the quality of the conversation around its stories.

Several news organizations, including Reuters and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch have ended or clamped down on commenting systems to stem the flow of invective from readers. Popular Science and The Huffington Post also cracked down on commenting, as has the Chicago Sun-Times.

The New York Times and The Washington Post are currently working with the Mozilla Foundation on The Coral Project, open-source software that will “facilitate the importing, storage, moderation, and display of contributions,” including comments, to news websites.


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Career Beat: Noam Scheiber named labor reporter at The New York Times

Good morning! Here are some career updates from the journalism community:

  • Noam Scheiber is now covering labor at The New York Times. Previously, he was a senior editor at The New Republic. (Politico)
  • Rachel Van Dongen will “lead a new initiative” at The Washington Post’s national desk. Previously, she was a deputy managing editor at Politico. (Poynter)
  • Claudia Wallis is now managing editor at Scientific American Mind. Previously, she was associate dean of strategic communications at Columbia University. (Mediabistro)

Job of the day: The Associated Press is looking for an immigration reporter. Get your résumés in! (Journalism Jobs)

Send Ben your job moves: bmullin@poynter.org Read more

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Politico’s Rachel Van Dongen leaves for The Washington Post

Politico deputy managing editor Rachel Van Dongen is leaving for The Washington Post, where she’ll “lead a new initiative for the National desk,” The Washington Post announced Thursday.

Van Dongen left the Post to join Politico in 2011 as the news organization was staffing up to cover the 2012 campaign. At Politico, Van Dongen coordinated coverage for some of Washington’s biggest stories, according to the Post, including “the government shutdown, the debt ceiling wars, sequestration and other episodes of Congressional drama.”

In her previous stint at The Post, Van Dongen oversaw The Fix and Post Politics blogs, according to the announcement.

Van Dongen’s is one of several senior-level editors that have left Politico in advance of the 2016 presidential election. Deputy managing editors Laura McGann, Dianna Heitz and Gregg Birnbaum have all departed within the last eight months, followed in some cases by other Politico journalists. Managing editor Rachel Smolkin also left during that time period.

Politico, meanwhile, has replenished its ranks with several high-profile hires. In February, NPR politics editor Charlie Mahtesian joined; Jack Shafer, formerly a media columnist with Reuters, came aboard in January. Politico also announced the hiring of Marilyn Thompson as deputy editor in January, along with White House editor Maura Reynolds.


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Correction: A previous version of this story identified Rachel Smolkin as a deputy managing editor at Politico. In fact, she was managing editor for news there. Read more

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Big time sports writer finds fulfillment covering small town team

Dave Kindred

Dave Kindred

In another life, Dave Kindred would have been winding down after covering the NFL playoffs and Super Bowl. February for Mr. Big-Time sports columnist usually meant getting prepped for the NCAA tournament with a column on the Duke-North Carolina game. Or perhaps depending on the year, he would be off to a far-away frozen location to report on the Winter Olympics.

However, in his current life, Kindred spent last Friday sitting on wooden bleachers at a girls high school basketball game in Central Illinois. With notebook in hand, he closely monitored and dutifully filed his report on the Morton Potters taking a 47-40 victory over Limestone.

“Canton and Washington are coming up,” said Kindred, full of anticipation on Morton’s next opponents.

Professional fulfillment comes in many forms during a person’s career. For Kindred, one of the most accomplished sportswriters of his generation, nothing now makes him feel more fulfilled than chronicling the exploits of the girls basketball team from Morton High School, located near Peoria, Ill.

“I wrote about the ‘Dream Team’ in Barcelona (at the ’92 Olympics),” Kindred said. “What gives me the bigger thrill? Put it this way: I truly like this. I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t like it.”

Kindred, member of the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association Hall of Fame and a recipient of the Red Smith Award for lifetime achievement in sports journalism, estimates he has written more than 150,000 words on the Potters since the winter of 2010. The man who once wrote columns for the Washington Post, Louisville Courier-Journal, Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The National posts his stories on the Morton girls site and his Facebook page.

Kindred  has missed only one of their games in person during that time, and he didn’t like it. Let the record show he still watched that game on his Blackberry in his hotel room in Las Vegas.

“I’m on assignment to talk to a Hall of Fame coach (Jerry Tarkanian) and I’m worried I’m going to miss a Morton girls high school basketball game,” Kindred said.

Kindred’s priorities shifted when he and his wife, Cheryl, moved back to their native Central Illinois in 2010. He started to attend some Morton games because a friend’s daughter played on the team. Soon he was hooked and began writing stories off their games.

Award-winning reporter Dave Kindred, with his pad and pen, is a fixture at Morton High School girl basketball games. (Photo by Dave Byrne)

Award-winning reporter Dave Kindred, with his pad and pen, is a fixture at Morton High School girls basketball games. (Photo by Dave Byrne)

Kindred isn’t retired. He still works as a contributor for Golf Digest and recently had a short stint with Sports on Earth before that site changed directions. He also is working on a book.

However, the bulk of Kindred’s writing now is on the Morton girls. It says something about his commitment that his per-game fee comes in the form of one box of Milk Duds for him and Junior Mints for his wife.

“I like that the games are 1 hour, 15 minutes,” Kindred said. “There’s no Katy Perry at halftime, no commercials. That’s all I’ve wanted from every sporting event I’ve ever covered. The girls just give you the game.”

Of course, there’s more. Kindred is captivated by the girls effort on the floor. He says watching them play is a reminder of what attracted him to sports in the first place. There’s something to be said about the purity of simply playing hard without having millions of dollars on the line.

Kindred repays the girls by taking the same dogged approach with his posts.

“I’ve never found this beneath me,” Kindred said. “I don’t try any less writing about the girls than I did writing a column for the Washington Post.”

Indeed, the writing still shines. Kindred’s posts are more from a columnist’s perspective than a typical game story. While he doesn’t criticize Morton’s players, a recent game showed he will throw a dart when warranted. Kindred objected to East Peoria, hopelessly behind in the fourth quarter, lengthening the game with needless and sometimes hard fouls.

Kindred wrote: “You can’t spell class without a-s-s and East Peoria proved it tonight.”

“Class still matters to me,” Kindred explained. “I was just as mad about that game as when I saw John Thompson’s teams beating up people at Georgetown.”

Morton coach Bob Becker and virtually everyone associated with the team initially weren’t aware that Kindred used to write about Georgetown for the Post. Or that he once did an interview with Muhammad Ali under the covers of his bed in a crowded hotel room and later wrote a book about the legendary boxer.

“When I found out more about him, it was intimidating at first,” Becker said. “He’s been around all these big-time players and coaches. Here I am, just a small-time girls high school coach. But he’s been great. Honestly, it’s amazing that a guy of his stature has fallen into our lap.”

Actually, it is Kindred who feels blessed. He started his career covering high school sports for the Bloomington Pantagraph in the ‘60s. He called coordinating the desk on busy high school game nights “the hardest thing I ever did.”

Now Kindred says he has “come full circle.” He believes his Morton experience carries some important lessons for sportswriters like him who have seen it all.

“You get so caught up in the hoopla of a major sports event, you forget what matters,” Kindred said. “One of my theories is if you pay attention, you’ll see something you’ve never seen before. If you work at it, you can make a girls high school basketball game as riveting as the Super Bowl. There’s something in every game worth writing about. I think there’s much to be said about that.”

Kindred hopes to generate some compelling stories from Morton’s biggest games of the year. The Potters are 25-3, but he says the road will be tough for the upcoming Illinois state girls high school tournament.

Kindred was in the midst of giving a rundown of Morton’s chances when he came to another realization just how much his sports mindset has changed.

“You know, I know more about girls high school basketball than I do about the NBA or the NFL,” Kindred said. “I’m happy about that.”

******

Recommended reading on sports journalism:

Ed Sherman writes about sports media at shermanreport.com. Follow him @Sherman_Report Read more

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Career Beat: Dorie Greenspan named food columnist at The Washington Post

Good morning! Here are some career updates from the journalism community:

  • Dorie Greenspan is now a food columnist for The Washington Post. She is the author of 11 cookbooks. (Washington Post)
  • Hilary Krieger will be enterprise editor for CNN Politics Digital. Previously, she was deputy White House editor for Politico. Daniella Diaz will join the digital production team at CNN Politics Digital. Previously, she was a Web producer at Politico. (Poynter)
  • Kevin Conroy is now chief strategy and data officer at Univision Communications Inc. Previously, he was president, UIM and enterprise development. (Media Moves)
  • Kate Glassman Bennett will be a gossip columnist at Politico. Previously, she was an editor at Washingtonian. (Fishbowl DC)

Job of the Day: The (Brunswick, Maine) Times Record is looking for a publisher. Get your résumés in! (Journalism Jobs) Read more

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How long will Brian Williams be out of the anchor chair?

Good morning. I’m subbing for Kristen today. Here are 10 media stories.

  1. Brian Williams cancels Letterman appearance

    Over the weekend, "a source close to Williams" said the NBC anchor will not keep his scheduled appearance on "Late Show with David Letterman," the same show where he erroneously claimed he was aboard a helicopter that took enemy fire. (CNN) | On Sunday, Politico's Mike Allen suggested that appearing on the talk show might be a "high-profile, controlled way for Williams to clear the air." (Politico) | On Saturday, the embattled "NBC Nightly News" anchor announced he would take a hiatus from the show for "several days," adding that he planned to return and "be worthy of the trust" of his audience. (Poynter) | Meanwhile, media reporters and critics are contemplating the scandal's affect on Williams' career. On "Reliable Sources" Sunday, two of Brian Stelter's guests told the host they weren't sure if Williams would ever return to his anchor chair. (CNN) | In his weekly column, David Carr wrote in favor of Williams keeping his job, although he said Williams' future at "Nightly News" was still uncertain. (The New York Times) | Also on Sunday, Verne Gay of Newsday called on Williams to resign. (Newsday) | Related: "...there is no difference between an internal investigation of Brian Williams and a fact-checking inquiry prompted by his storytelling abuses." (Erik Wemple) | Also related: "Brian Williams' Mugging Story Comes Under Scrutiny" (Huffington Post)

  2. Iranian official supports Jason Rezaian

    Mohammad Javad Zarif, the foreign minister of Iran, told Washington Post columnist David Ignatius he wants imprisoned Post reporter Jason Rezaian to be freed: "I hope he will be cleared in a court of law. That would be a good day for me.” (The Washington Post) | Rezaian was arrested in July and charged in December. He awaits a court appearance. (Poynter)

  3. In Henderson, talking to reporters could get you fired

    A new policy for the city of Henderson in Nevada warns city employees they could face penalties "up to and including termination" for talking to the media without permission. City Manager Jacob Snow tells the Las Vegas Review-Journal he's "not surprised or concerned" by the policy, which the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada says could have a chilling effect among city employees. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)

  4. Vox and BuzzFeed land interviews with the president

    This weekend, both Vox and BuzzFeed announced they would unveil separate interviews with President Barack Obama. Vox's interview, conducted in January by co-founder Ezra Klein and Executive Editor Matthew Yglesias, features all sorts of superimposed visual effects. It's live now. (Vox) | "i will say this presentation is like the snowfall of watching a dude sit in a chair and talk" (‏@MikeIsaac) | BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith is sitting down with Obama on Tuesday. The president will also appear in a video by BuzzFeed Motion Pictures. (BuzzFeed) | "The interviews are the most recent attempt by President Obama to use new media platforms, including YouTube, Twitter and Vine, to get out his message on a number of policy issues." (The New York Times)

  5. News organizations to unveil safety guidelines

    In the wake of the deaths of freelance journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, news organizations are planning to reveal "a new set of safety guidelines" for freelancers and their employers this week at Columbia University. (The Associated Press) | Related: Japan has seized the passport of Yuichi Sugimoto, a photojournalist traveling to Syria, where Foley was reporting from before he was kidnapped. Authorities say it was for the journalist's safety. Sugimoto described the seizure as "a threat to the freedom of press." (BBC)

  6. Making U-T San Diego a community paper

    Real estate investor Malin Burnham is interested in brokering a deal for U-T San Diego (formerly the San Diego Union-Tribune) wherein the paper would become "owned by the community." Under Burnham's plan, the transaction would be overseen by a large San Diego nonprofit, and the funding would come "from a small group of investors." The paper would be nonpartisan but “support things that are going on [in] the community.” (CJR)

  7. Capital New York brass say business is going well

    Higher-ups at Capital New York, the media and politics site built around Politico's subscription model, say the outlet "has exceeded expectations," Lucia Moses reports for Digiday. The outlet has tried out different pricing models for access to media, city hall and Albany coverage. “We’re breaking through and selling a lot of subscriptions to major operations,” says Andrew Sollinger, executive director of new business development and strategy. (Digiday)

  8. Former NPR ombudsman drops the mic

    In his last column, outgoing NPR Ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos warns of adhering too closely to certain standards and ethics: "We in the news media—in different ways between new and old—are exaggerating ethics at the expense of maintaining a civilized and free society. We must remember this: Ethics change. And they are different in different democracies." (NPR) | Elizabeth Jensen, Schumacher-Matos' successor, told Poynter she will be active on social media and contribute regularly to NPR’s ombudsman blog. (Poynter)

  9. Front page of the day, selected by Seth Liss

    The Honolulu Star-Advertiser goes big with an infographic on measles. (Courtesy the Newseum)

    VaccineFront

  10. Job moves, edited by Benjamin Mullin

    Jorge Mettey is now vice president of news and community relations at Azteca América. Previously, he was senior vice president of news at MundoFox. (Media Moves) | Jeffrey Dastin is now U.S. airlines correspondent for Reuters. Previously, he was an intern there. (Email) | Melisa Goh will be senior homepage editor at CNN. Previously, she was weekend editor at NPR.org. (Email) | Keith Connors is now news director for WTNH in New Haven, Connecticut. Previously, he was news director for WTHR in Indianapolis. Dave Ciliberti is now news director for WCMH in Columbus, Ohio. Previously, he was news director for WTEN/WXXA in Albany, New York. (Rick Gevers) | Job of the day: CBS Interactive is looking for an associate editor. Get your résumés in! (Journalism Jobs) | Send Ben your job moves: bmullin@poynter.org.

Corrections? Tips? Wish it were still Sunday? Let Kristen know: khare@poynter.org. Would you like to get this roundup emailed to you every morning? Sign up here. Read more

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