New York Daily News fires editor for deleting attribution

The New York Daily News on Tuesday fired an editor after unearthing a pattern of deletions that made it appear as if a columnist had plagiarized work from multiple news outlets.

In an unusual episode in the annals of journalism controversy, Daily News editor Jim Rich announced the firing of the unnamed editor for serial attribution-removal after a brief plagiarism controversy engulfed senior justice writer Shaun King.

Citing a "series of egregious and inexplicable errors" in a statement to CNN, Rich justified the decision to fire the editor, whom he says deleted attribution over a period of three months:

On at least three separate occasions, the editor deleted attribution that made it appear passages from Shaun King's columns were not properly credited. These mistakes are unacceptable and the editor in question has been fired. Because of the recurring nature of this editor's specific mistakes, we are currently reviewing all of the columns he edited. Because of the subject matter that Shaun tackles as senior justice writer, he faces intense — and often unfair — scrutiny. To suggest — as many already have — that Shaun has done anything wrong here, is completely inaccurate.

The controversy began earlier Tuesday, when Noah Shachtman, the executive editor of The Daily Beast, accused King of lifting passages from a story about the death of a prison inmate written by Daily Beast staffer Kate Briquelet. In an interview with POLITICO Media — and in several mocking tweets — Shachtman accused King of plagiarizing two paragraphs from Briquelet's story.

King responded on Twitter, initially defending the verbatim language by noting that the identical passages were quoted. He then tweeted images of an early draft of his story that showed he originally attributed the language to The Daily Beast.

Amid the controversy about lifted language from The Daily Beast, Mediaite reporter Alex Griswold unearthed what appeared to be an instance of cribbing from FiveThirtyEight, ESPN's numbers-focused website examining sports and politics. King said that, too, could be chalked up to editor error.

Shortly thereafter, Rich took to Twitter to support King's side of the story, confirming that an earlier draft of the article was attributed to The Daily Beast.

The hubbub triggered a review into King's work that concluded with the canning of an unidentified editor. An editor's note has been appended to King's column correcting the record.

Editor's Note: An editing error mistakenly removed attribution to a story originally published by The Daily Beast. The mistake has been corrected. The News regrets the error.

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    Benjamin Mullin

    Benjamin Mullin is the managing editor of Poynter.org. He previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow, covering journalism innovation, business practices and ethics.

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