Get Me Rewrite! (NYT Crashed-and-Burned and Smoking Watch)
links for 2009-05-18

Plagiarize! Let No One Else's Work Evade Your Eyes! New York Times Crashed-and-Burned Watch

You want my guess as to what happened with Maureen Dowd? Last Friday night Maureen Dowd was running out of steam on her column. So she went and grabbed a paragraph from Josh Marshall: this one:

More and more the timeline is raising the question of why, if the torture was to prevent terrorist attacks, it seemed to happen mainly during the period when we were looking for what was essentially political information to justify the invasion of Iraq...

She pasted it at the bottom of her unfinished draft. She began editing it to make it her own "writing". She replaced "we were" with "the Bush crowd," producing:

More and more the timeline is raising the question of why, if the torture was to prevent terrorist attacks, it seemed to happen mainly during the period when we were the Bush crowd was looking for what was essentially political information to justify the invasion of Iraq...

Then something called her away. Later she came back to the column. But she had forgotten that she had not yet made enough changes to make it her own "writing." So she double-spaced. She typed out a final paragraph. And she sent the column off. That was how it was printed in Sunday morning's New York Times as Maureen Dowd's work.

Thejoshuablog noticed the plagiarism. The online version of Maureen Dowd's column has been changed. Dowd's substitution of "the Bush crowd" for "we were" has been reversed. An introductory phrase, "Josh Marshall said in his blog:" has been added. Google cannot find any other time that Maureen Dowd has ever used the expression "said in his blog" in any column. As of this writing, no note or explanation is attached to the column in its location at http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/17/opinion/17dowd.html?_r=2.

As of this moment, Maureen Dowd claims:

I didn't read [Josh Marshall's] blog last week, and didn't have any idea he had made that point until you informed me just now. i was talking to a friend of mine Friday about what I was writing who suggested I make this point, expressing it in a cogent -- and I assumed spontaneous -- way and I wanted to weave the idea into my column. but, clearly, my friend must have read josh marshall without mentioning that to me. we're fixing it on the web, to give josh credit, and will include a note, as well as a formal correction tomorrow...

If Maureen Dowd really means "talked" to her friend, then she has friends who have a near-perfect memory for what they have read, friends who moreover recite paragraphs without telling her where they read them, she herself has a near-perfect memory for what she hears, and she herself feels no compunction about taking paragraphs others have said to her and writing them down word-for-word as her own work. If Maureen Dowd means, instead, that he and her friend were emailing, then the story becomes somewhat less remarkable. All we have then is friends who cut-and-paste from Josh Marshall and then pass off what they have cut-and-pasted as their own work, and a Maureen Dowd who cuts-and-pastes from her friends and then passes off what she has cut-and-pasted as her own work.

Notice that Maureen Dowd is not thinking too fast.

Either way to interpret her email looks, I believe, much less creditable to Maureen Dowd than if she had simply said the equally false but irrefutable: "Yes, I read it. I thought Josh Marshall's paragraph was brilliant. I copied it so I could refer back to it later. But later on when I came back to it I looked at it, forgot where it came from, thought I had tossed it off, and thought: 'Gee! I really do have brilliant insights, don't I!' I am very sorry." That is a single mental lapse. Her story strongly suggests instead a deeply corrupt, unethical, and persistent pattern of stealing paragraphs from "friends" to pass off as your own work.

At this moment, Josh Marshall says:

I really don’t have any comment...

And thejoshuablog says:

Honestly, I’d rather not [comment]. I’m pretty sure I can’t add anything that isn’t already clear cut. Obviously, I don’t know what happened, but I am interested in hearing what Dowd’s explanation is though – considering how big a role she played in Joe Biden’s plagiarism problem in 1988...

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