In journalism school, plagiarism is equivalent to life without parole: it is the bane of any writer’s existence and an automatic halt on one’s professional reputation. We are told over and over and over again to source everything, make sure all of your facts line up and that we’ll be outcasted from the journalistic community if we dare even think of the word ‘plagiarism.’ For more information, check out “Shattered Glass,” the tale of the Rise and Fall of The New Republic‘s Stephen Glass, who fabricated entire articles for a quick shot at fame.
So here’s a little story that has unfolded over the past few days. You might know Fareed Zakaria – the Indian-American journalist had a column in Newsweek for over a decade and soon became editor-at-large for Time. Soon enough, he was on the tellie with a CNN show called Fareed Zakaria GPS, a weekly summary of international and domestic news from the writer himself.
In this month’s issue of Time Magazine, Zakaria wrote a column about gun laws in the face of the shootings in Aurora and Oak Creek. NRANews.com began to note way-too-coincidental similarities between his article and a work in the New Yorker‘s April issue by the journalist Jill Lapore. The group passed on the observation to NewsBusters, a media watchdog group. As the pressure mounted on Zakaria, he was forced to make a statement.
And he did: he might’ve plagiarized a bit.
As Dylan Byers of Politico points out, the two paragraphs are almost inseparable. And, not gonna lie, it is literally a textbook example of the misdeed.
Here’s Lapore’s work from the New Yorker:
As Adam Winkler, a constitutional-law scholar at U.C.L.A., demonstrates in a remarkably nuanced new book, “Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America,” firearms have been regulated in the United States from the start. Laws banning the carrying of concealed weapons were passed in Kentucky and Louisiana in 1813, and other states soon followed: Indiana (1820), Tennessee and Virginia (1838), Alabama (1839), and Ohio (1859). Similar laws were passed in Texas, Florida, and Oklahoma. As the governor of Texas explained in 1893, the “mission of the concealed deadly weapon is murder. To check it is the duty of every self-respecting, law-abiding man.
And, now, for comparison, enter Zakaria’s column in Time:
Adam Winkler, a professor of constitutional law at UCLA, documents the actual history in Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America. Guns were regulated in the U.S. from the earliest years of the Republic. Laws that banned the carrying of concealed weapons were passed in Kentucky and Louisiana in 1813. Other states soon followed: Indiana in 1820, Tennessee and Virginia in 1838, Alabama in 1839 and Ohio in 1859. Similar laws were passed in Texas, Florida and Oklahoma. As the governor of Texas (Texas!) explained in 1893, the “mission of the concealed deadly weapon is murder. To check it is the duty of every self-respecting, law-abiding man.”
Well, a chain reaction naturally followed the admission. Time has suspended Zakaria for a month, pending the review of his other work (when it rains, sometimes it pours). Once CNN heard this, it also indefinitely suspended Zakaria from airing his weekly broadcast. Both organizations argue that the world broke their respective ethical rules, let alone the foundations of the journalism world.
It is unseen for now what will happen to Zakaria in the coming weeks. Unfortunately, as we mentioned before, plagiarism is a permanent stamp on a career, disabling many journalists from coming back into the game.
So, listen kids, if you want to become a journalist, thou shalt not steal… other people’s sources without crediting them.