Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Pox on Our House

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Pox on Our House

Article excerpt

PLAGIARISM AND FABRICATION are the cancer clusters of journalism: From time to time, a disturbing eruption of lies breaks out and a desperate search follows to find some pattern, some explanation.

To say, as authorities frequently do when clusters of deadly disease emerge, that they are nothing more than a statistical anomaly seems woefully insufficient -- even when it's the truth.

We are living through one such episode now, as fact-checkers at the Boston Globe and New Republic magazine (E&P, June 20, "Above The Fold," p.4) discover that each employed a star writer who was a fabulist. And right after the Globe fired Patricia Smith for inventing people and quotes in several columns, the paper's even better-known columnist, Mike Barnicle, was accused by lawyer Alan M. Dershowitz of doing exactly the same thing.

After reviewing 364 columns dating back to early 1996, the Globe determined those allegations were false. The Globe's diligence is admirable -- and it must be remembered that it was the newspaper itself that flagged Patricia Smith's inventions, in part by using a fact-checking system begun two years ago. …

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