Former New York Times executive editor accused of plagiarism in new book on journalism
Posted On July 12, 2020
A former New York Times executive editor has been accused of plagiarism in a new book looking at how journalism has evolved over the last decade.
Jill Abramson, whose book Merchants of Truth: The Business of News and the Fight for Facts was published this week, has denied claims of plagiarism but promised to "review the passages in question".
The claims were made by Vice journalist Michael Moynihan, who accused Abramson of lifting passages from publications such as The New Yorker, Time Out and the Columbia Journalism Review.
In a series of tweets on Wednesday, Mr Moynihan listed several examples from three chapters in the book relating to Vice and compared them to passages published by other news outlets.
Mr Moynihan suggested his scrutiny of the book began after spotting "an egregious error" about his colleague Arielle Duhaime-Ross, who was wrongly identified as transgender in an initial review copy.
"All three chapters on Vice were clotted with mistakes. Lots of them. The truth promised in Merchants of Truth was often not true. While trying to corroborate certain claims, I noticed that it also contained… plagiarized passages," he wrote, attaching screenshots of the extracts in question.
Mr Moynihan added: "The book ends with a final wag of the finger, reminding me that my colleagues apparently don’t possess ‘the expertise to compete on the biggest news stories.’ If Abramson is the arbiter of ethics & expertise, I think we’re doing just fine."
The book’s publisher Simon & Schuster describes the book as "the definitive report on the disruption of the news media over the last decade", tracking the progress of The New York Times, The Washington Post, BuzzFeed and Vice over that period.
It has been praised by American writers Walter Isaacson and Gay Talese, while a number of journalists rushed to defend Abramson online.
Iain Macwhirter, a columnist for the Scottish Herald, wrote: "Best book about journalism around, period… Row about ‘misgendered’ Millennial is out of all proportion. Lectures on accuracy from Vice? Come on."
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Macwhirter added: "When does reporting facts become plagiarism? Fascinating controversy over author @JillAbramson – accused for copying the following from another publication. But if it is reported fact, and there is proper attribution, what is the problem?"
Appearing on Fox News on Wednesday night, Abramson disputed the allegations, saying: "All I can tell you is I certainly didn’t plagiarise in my book and there’s 70 pages of footnotes showing where I got the information."
She also suggested "the attacks" from some at Vice News "reflect their unhappiness with what I consider a balanced portrayal".
Later on in the evening, the author tweeted: "I take seriously the issues raised and will review the passages in question. I endeavored to accurately and properly give attribution to the hundreds of sources that were part of my research."
In a separate statement, Simon & Schuster said that the author had given "an extraordinary degree of transparency toward its subjects; each of the four news organisations covered in the book was given ample time and opportunity to comment on the content, and where appropriate the author made changes and corrections. If upon further examination changes or attributions are deemed necessary we stand ready to work with the author in making those revisions."
Abramson wrote for the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal among others before being named as the New York Times‘ first female executive editor in 2011, one of journalism’s most prestigious and influential positions.
She was fired three years later after clashing with other staff, the newspaper said, and currently teaches creative writing at Harvard University.