I was shocked to read thatis suspended for plagiarism by Time magazine and CNN. Without going into detail or specifically acknowledging he had similar content in his recent Time column, “The Case for Gun Control” to an article first penned by The New Yorker’s Jill Lepore, he publicly acknowledged a transgression, calling it a mistake. “It is a serious lapse and one that is entirely my fault,” said Zakaria. “I apologize to [Lepore], to my editors at Time, and to my readers.”
As fellow Harvard alum, I find it difficult to believe that a journalist with a Ph.D. from the university would not know the rules of plagiarism and attribution. Violations are grounds for major disciplinary action, and we all learned from our earliest days there that these were not lines to ever cross. After Harvard, I saw first-hand the commercial ramifications of plagiarism and copyright violation at Allvoices, where user-generated content often blurred the lines. I also saw how the mainstream news media played loose with the rules by rewriting each other’s stories in the name of “analysis.” There is very little original reporting and thought in the media these days.
In founding Allvoices I was lucky to see how journalism works in countries around the globe. Professional journalists and even “news junkies” from India contributing to Allvoices often have perfect English and can write a story within minutes of a breaking world event. Sadly, their employing newspapers and web sites only pay about $100 per month for their skills, which is why they also contribute to Allvoices. This global exposure made me aware that in countries like India the writers are not fully versed in what constitutes plagiarism, or how to correctly attribute content.
Which raises a troubling question: Fareed Zakaria is a very busy man. He is prolific with columns in Time and Newsweek, op-eds in Washington Post, his GPS show on CNN as well as additional shows for CNN. Is it a difficult stretch to wonder if Fareed outsources some of his content needs to a small team of Indian journalists who help with his writing and workload?
Does Fareed outsource journalism to India? Could one of his writers have copied the Lepore paragraphs for his piece without attribution because they’re unacquainted with the rules of plagiarism? My guess is he quickly admitted his mistake so it wouldn’t expose how he didn’t edit closely enough the outsourced “Gun Control” piece for issues before he let it go to print.