Dowd’s Deed

How should high-profile columnists process and relay information?

You’ve heard the buzz about Maureen Dowd’s Sunday column for The New York Times, the one in which she reproduced, apparently unintentionally, a sentence—about forty words—from a blog post by Talking Points Memo editor Josh Marshall. Most people seem to want to
make the word “plagiarism” go away, including Marshall himself, who responded yesterday, “Whatever the mechanics of how it happened, I never thought it was intentional. Dowd and the Times quickly corrected it, which I appreciated. And for me, that’s pretty much the end of it.”

But is it? Even if we get rid of the explosive plagiarism charge, there’s still a case of sloppy reporting to consider. How grave is Dowd’s mistake, and what does it say about the way a high-profile columnist should process and relay information? And in an ideal world, how would this have been handled?

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The Editors are the staffers of Columbia Journalism Review.