WashPost Joins Time, CNN In Suspending Fareed Zakaria's Column After Plagiarism Scandal

The Washington Post really knows how to bury the lede. In a Tuesday story on how suspended CNN-Time journalist Fareed Zakaria is now under fire for stealing quotes without attribution in his book The Post-American World, media reporter Paul Farhi waited until the 13th and final paragraph to acknowledge that that the Post has joined CNN and Time in punishing Zakaria for his plagiarism.

“Zakaria also writes a separate column for The Washington Post. The newspaper said on Monday that his column will not appear this month,” he concluded. Zakaria lamented: "People are piling on with every grudge or vendetta" now that NewsBusters exposed him.

 

Farhi reported that Zakaria used a quote of Intel chairman Andy Grove without attributing it to trade expert and author Clyde Prestowitz, who did the interview for his book Three Billion New Capitalists.

Zakaria, in an interview Monday, defended the practice of not attributing quotes in a popular book. "As I write explicitly [in the book], this is not an academic work where everything has to be acknowledged and footnoted," he said. The book contains "hundreds" of comments and quotes that aren't attributed because doing so, in context, would "interrupt the flow for the reader," he said.

"I should not be judged by a standard that's not applied to everyone else," he added. "People are piling on with every grudge or vendetta. The charge is totally bogus."

David Frum at The Daily Beast is fervently arguing in Zakaria's defense, insisting Farhi failed to do the homework and find that indeed, the paperback edition of Zakaria's book does cite Prestowitz in a footnote.

At the Poynter Mediawire site, Andrew Beaujon reported professor Steve Ross commented on Poynter’s first story about Zakaria’s plagiarism, writing, “Some of my students and former students have been interns for Zakaria, and he has quite a few at one time.”

It seems obvious to me that the interns almost certainly did the deed and that Zakaria has taken responsibility, as he should.… I’m usually forced to do my own work, thank you (!), so I don’t have a lot of sympathy — these folks are brands, not authors. But I’m somewhat forgiving on the plagiarizer accusation.

That would match with the plagiarism case of historian/TV celebrity Doris Kearns Goodwin, who was apparently too busy being a pundit to write her own history books. Beaujon concluded his roundup:

Zakaria, the theory goes, couldn’t have made such a boneheaded mistake on his own. But how is using a researcher’s work under your name different from a journalist’s editor directing a story, changing its lede, inserting a new ending or making any of the other changes that happen in editorial meat grinders every day?

The only thing I can find admirable in this whole dismal tale is the possibility that Zakaria held up his end of the bargain and apologized for an error he didn’t make.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis