Zakaria explains plagiarism, resigns from Yale board to reduce load

The New York Times | New Haven Register

A plagiarism fracas has led Fareed Zakaria to decide "There's got to be some stripping down," he tells The New York Times' Christine Haughney. He'll get some air into his superhuman schedule by giving fewer speeches, lessening some of his board work.

Along the way to becoming one of the "favorite dinner companions of the power elite," Haughney writes, Zakaria undertook too many extensions of his personal brand to give his writing as much attention as he'd like. In an interview in his CNN office, Zakaria offered an explanation for what happened, one that doesn't involve him taking the fall for a ghostwriter or a research assistant screwing up.

The mistake, he said, occurred when he confused the notes he had taken about Ms. Lepore’s article — he said he often writes his research in longhand — with notes taken from “Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America,” by Adam Winkler (W.W. Norton, 2011), a copy of which was on his desk at his CNN office.

Michigan journalism professor Charles Eisendrath gives Haughney an economic explanation for the star system at big outlets: "The brands who have been forced to cut their staff have been forced to take on the brands of journalists,” he tells her. “As long as it’s cheaper to brand individual personalities than to build staff and bolster their brand, they will do it."

Zakaria said "he never had an assistant write a column in 25 years and that he began using a research assistant for his column only in the last year." Two of Zakaria's former assistants tell Haughney their boss did his own writing. Haughney also talks to former colleagues at Newsweek International, which he edited, who said he "he was involved in choosing covers and generating ideas but did little line editing and was more the public face of the magazine."

Time and CNN announced Thursday that they would reinstate Zakaria after a brief suspension while they investigated his work for other incidents of plagiarism. The Washington Post has also suspended publication of Zakaria's column this month. In a recent (unbylined) story about Zakaria, the Post says, "The column has been on vacation this month and is scheduled to resume in September."

Later Monday, Zakaria resigned from the Yale board. In a letter to Yale President Richard Levin and published by the New Haven Register, Zakaria said:

I am re-examining my professional life and I have recognized that, in order to focus on the core of my work, I will have to shed some of my other responsibilities. My service at Yale is the single largest commitment of time, energy, and attention outside of my writing and television work. ...

I came to Yale as a scholarship kid from India in 1982 and instantly fell in love with it. That affection hasnever waned. I have tried to give back to the university a small measure of what it gave me -- devotingtime, effort, and resources, as best I could.

In an editorial Sunday, the New Haven Register called for Zakaria to leave the board. Last week, Yale said it was reviewing its relationship with Zakaria after his suspensions for plagiarism.

Related: "Plagiarism is just inefficient hyperlinking" (GigaOm) | "We've Heard Fareed Zakaria's Excuse Before" (The Atlantic) | “There is a big difference” between Jonah Lehrer and Fareed Zakaria (The New York Times) | What Jonah Lehrer and Fareed Zakaria have in common: They’re both intellectual brands (Vanity Fair) | “Journalists doing history tend to be superficial and formulaic” (Salon) | “Fareed Zakaria’s critics are just jealous (Newsweek)

Julie Moos contributed to this report.

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at 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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