Washington Post corrects story that said Fareed Zakaria lifted quote

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The Washington Post has corrected a story that accused Fareed Zakaria of lifting a quote from author Clyde V. Prestowitz:

This story incorrectly states that in the initial hardcover edition of his 2008 book, “The Post-American World,” Fareed Zakaria failed to cite the source of a quote taken from another book. In fact, Zakaria did credit author Clyde V. Prestowitz.

The Post added this to the correction late Wednesday:

Endnotes crediting Prestowitz were contained in hardcover and paperback editions of Zakaria’s book. The Post should have examined copies of the books and should not have published the article. We regret the error and apologize to Fareed Zakaria.

Tuesday, The Post's Paul Farhi reported (and I repeated) Clyde V. Prestowitz's contention that Fareed Zakaria didn't cite a quote of his in Zakaria's book "The Post-American World."

"This charge is false, as 10 minutes' work by the Washington Post would have shown," David Frum writes. The 2009 paperback edition of the book does contain a citation, Frum writes. That directly contradicts a sentence in Farhi's piece.

I asked Farhi whether he had done anything to verify Prestowitz's complaint of quote-stealing by Zakaria. We agreed that the conversation would be off-the-record, so I won't quote Farhi's answer. But I don't need to. The pages speak for themselves.

Frum includes images from the 2008 hardcover edition and the 2009 paperback edition, both of which include a footnote crediting Prestowitz.

Zakaria's publisher sent Poynter a statement:

W. W. Norton & Company wants to point out that assertions made in Paul Farhi’s August 13 Washington Post column about Fareed Zakaria’s book The Post-American World are fundamentally untrue.
From the very first printing of the hardcover edition, Mr. Zakaria has credited Clyde V. Prestowitz for obtaining the quote in question from Andy Grove. Norton also wishes to support statements made by Mr. Zakaria in that column to the effect that Mr. Zakaria has adhered to standards customary and accepted for the publication of trade books.

Frum told Dylan Byers at Politico "One of the most important newspapers in America has charged one of the leading journalists in America of plagiarism. If you do that, you need to verify the facts -- all evidence points to the fact that they did not do that."

Farhi did call Zakaria, who offered him a full-throated defense of lousy journalistic hygiene. He called Prestowitz's charge "totally bogus" when Farhi spoke with him, but he also said the book is "is not an academic work where everything has to be acknowledged and footnoted." Also on Tuesday Zakaria told Jeffrey Goldberg "it is quite untrue that it is standard journalistic practice to name the interviewer when quoting from an interview."

Meanwhile, legitimately bogus defenses of Zakaria popped up all over the Web Tuesday. Kevin Drum writes in Mother Jones that Zakaria shouldn't be judged harshly for his cavalier attitude toward quotes:

Prestowitz doesn't have a copyright on the quote just because it came from an interview of his. Once it's out there, it's out there. Nobody credits every quote they ever use. Nobody.

Drum calls not adequately rewriting others' words, which Zakaria already apologized for, "nano-scale plagiarism." Add all the adjectives you want, though, the noun's the same.

In RedEye, Stephen Markley also attempts to arrange gripes about Zakaria's work along some sort of a continuum: Zakaria committed "larceny" by ripping off Jill Lepore's New Yorker piece, Markley writes, before launching into a full-throated defense of half-assed work habits:

I think about this often because I turn out these blog posts four times a week, and I’m usually citing sources that are obviously not my original journalism, and, no offense to RedEye, but this blog is about my fourth priority behind new book projects, editing, and other writing minutiae. I often grow terribly paranoid that I’ve inadvertently lifted something. I spend half my day reading, either books or articles or columns or blogs from around the web, and it’s incredible the way certain facts or key turns of phrase can latch in your brain and then pop to the surface weeks, or months later. In fact, I fully admit I’ve caught myself at this on more than one occasion. I’ll be staring at something I’ve written, thinking, “Damnit, I think I heard that somewhere.”

Non-bogus: Todd Andrlik on plagiarism's unsung place in American history:

Without professional writing staffs of journalists or correspondents, eighteenth-century newspaper printers relied heavily on an intercolonial newspaper exchange system to fill their pages. Printers often copied entire paragraphs or columns directly from other newspapers and frequently without attribution. As a result, identical news reports often appeared in multiple papers throughout America. This news-swapping technique, and resulting plagiarism, helped spread the ideas of liberty and uphold the colonists' resistance to British Parliament.

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at TBD.com and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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