Yale reviewing relationship with Fareed Zakaria after plagiarism

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Yale may review its relationship with university trustee and alumnus Fareed Zakaria, the Yale Daily News reports, after Zakaria was suspended from Time and CNN Friday for plagiarism.

In a short statement to the News, University President Richard Levin said that he is “in the process of convening a meeting of the Yale Corporation Committee on Trusteeship to discuss the process for reviewing this matter, which we take very seriously.”

My coworker Craig Silverman writes about the fuzziness of news outlets' review processes. The Baltimore Sun's David Zurawik says academia actually moves faster than journalism when it comes to self-regulation:

Maybe I am a hopelessly out of date moralist, or maybe it is because I have taught media ethics for the last 20 years to college students, but I don't care how smart someone is supposed to be, if they steal others' ideas and words, they are dead to me as a source of intellectual or moral discourse. And if the media did a better job policing themselves in this regard, the public would have far more trust and confidence in us.

And now we turn to why. Allahpundit tries to account for Zakaria's "bizarre" actions:

Could Zakaria maybe have been farming his columns out to an intern or assistant? That would be ethically problematic in its own right, but it might help explain this incident. A young ghostwriter has much less to lose in taking a risk like this and might well be more naive than Zakaria would be about the probability of being caught.

John McQuaid picks up the same thread: "How many of those star book writers, columnists, pundits, essayists, and TED talkers are just cutting corners?" he writes. He's got another possible explanation:

Like many Davos globetrotters, Zakaria is a broker of ideas and memes on various issues, constantly processing them, turning them over, appropriating some and discarding others as he picks what to focus on. He is, in other words, not just a brand but an aggregator. ...

The problem came when he crossed the line from simply appropriating other people’s ideas to copying (with a few tweaks) someone else’s language. Today, with text so fungible, information flowing from so many sources, and debates unfolding in real time, that’s easier than ever to do. And your brand and star power may convince you (or your interns and researchers) that you’re doing us all a favor by doing it.

Chris Vognar compares Zakaria to star athletes who try to boost their performances with drugs:

There’s enormous pressure to succeed in highly competitive spheres such as journalism and sports. That pressure doesn’t let up the higher you climb. It just intensifies. There’s always another rung on the ladder of success. It’s sad but hardly surprising when even the best climbers reach for an extra boost.

  • 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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