Archive for the CNN Category

Zakaria: Newsweek Puts A Crack In The Dam

Posted in CNN on September 29, 2014 by icn2

In a shock move with potential ramifications for CNN, Politico’s Dylan Byers writes about Newsweek putting up plagiarism warnings on its old Zakaria articles…

Newsweek has added a plagiarism warning to all of its columns by Fareed Zakaria in the wake of new plagiarism accusations.

“Fareed Zakaria worked for Newsweek when it was under previous ownership. Readers are advised that some of his articles have been the subject of complaints claiming that they contain material that should have been attributed to others,” the note reads. “In addition, readers with information about articles by Mr. Zakaria that may purportedly lack proper attribution are asked to e-mail Newsweek at corrections@newsweek.com.”

Zakaria, now a CNN host and columnist for The Washington Post, wrote for Newsweek from 1996 to 2010 and also served as editor of Newsweek International from 2000 to 2010. A handful of the articles he wrote for Newsweek have been included in the ongoing plagiarism accusations by Our Bad Media, a site run by two anonymous Twitter users that has dedicated nearly two months to Zakaria’s work.

The note from Newsweek goes far beyond what any of Zakaria’s current employers have done in response to the reports. CNN President Jeff Zucker recently said that he has “complete confidence” in Zakaria, while Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt has dismissed the plagiarism accusations altogether.

Oh yeah…this could move the goalposts on Zakaria. I was looking for something from Time Magazine and the results of its new investigation. I wasn’t expecting anything from Newsweek.

This is definitely not what CNN wanted to see happen because it puts the focus back on the network and why it still wholeheartedly backs Zakaria when another journalistic organization is now putting up plagiarism warnings on the articles he wrote for them.

You still have time though CNN. A full and forthright accounting at this point, while horribly late, is still a better option than the path you’ve chosen to go down…

Zakaria: CNN’s Mixed Messages…

Posted in CNN on September 28, 2014 by icn2

Today on Brian Stelter’s Reliable Sources, he talked about Zakaria.

Well I’ll give Stelter credit for getting this segment on the air in the first place. It takes guts to bring up a story your own network would like to bury with a bulldozer and then pour tons of concrete on top of it for good measure.

That said, I do find fault with Stelter’s segment. It doesn’t whitewash Zakaria. However, Stelter obviously has a soft spot for him and admitted as much today on TV. I did too…until 2012 and this scandal broke out. Stelter clearly feels the charges against Zakaria are overdone and he, I think fairly, notes that the guys at OBM seem to have an agenda with Zakaria…or at the very least give off the appearance of taking this “crusade” a little to personally. Speaking as an anonymous blogger, you definitely aren’t taken as seriously when you don’t have a name for critics and non-critics to hook on to. It’s the price you pay for going that route.

But the main problem I have with Stelter’s segment is not that Stelter, despite his best efforts, was unable to completely shake off the appearance of not being able to separate his personal feelings from his professional duties. My main problem is how narrow this segment’s subject matter was.

To watch it, you’d think the main charges against Zakaria concern what happened on GPS when the reality is that the GPS stuff is more like the icing on the cake with the cake being the two previous rounds of print accusations OBM threw at Zakaria. While Stelter does make an allusion to them at one point with a vague reference to “not just against his GPS work, but his columns and books too”, he steers clear of the OBM print allegations entirely. This part in particular bothered me…

But these bloggers claims have gotten attention partly because prior claims of plagiarism were leveled against Zakaria in 2012.

No. The GPS claims got attention because OBM set the stage…in 2014…with two different articles detailing more alleged examples of print plagiarmism that were not covered in the original 2012 scandal which threw serious questions at those who did the original 2012 due dilligence on Zakaria as a result of the Newsweek issue.

This is driven home in Stelter’s very next sentence…

I believe that most of their claims about GPS – 26 total – do not hold up under close scrutiny. The closer you look, the less it looks like capital “P” plagiarism.

1. What about the other claims OBM threw at Zakaria? Why concentrate on just the GPS ones? Did you not look at them at all? If you did why didn’t you include them here?

2. What were Stelter’s criteria for separating the “most” group that don’t hold up with the others which apparently did hold up? If you’re going to use the word “most” that automatically means that “some” don’t fall into that category because “most” is not an absolute. Which, by extrapolation, means some of those 26 claims did stand up to capital “P” plagiarism. And just which ones were those anyway?

3. As opposed to what? Small “P” plagiarism?

4. The “just a little bit pregnant” defense? Really?

This is what happens when you try to stick a toe into the water instead of jumping in fully….you don’t look like you’ve gone all in.

I have no first hand evidence of this but the way the segment went down with what it said, how it said it, and, most importantly, what it didn’t get into, strongly points to the suggestion that Stelter’s entire segment on Zakaria had to run through CNN’s editorial gauntlet, probably more than once. Stelter’s too good a writer and a journalist to give short shrift to 2/3 of OBM’s articles on Zakaria while giving him what amounts to mostly a pass on the GPS stuff. Here’s why this matters…

By concentrating on GPS, Stelter, whether it was his intention or not, is able to (fairly in my opinion) throw cold water on the plagiarism charges by noting how TV news works and the question of whether Zakaria wrote his opens or some sloppy producer did.

But you can’t use that argument to knock down the two rounds of OBM print charges (as well as the Slate charges OBM tossed out this week). It doesn’t work…unless Zakaria was having his print articles ghost written; which, if true (it’s not) would be an even bigger scandal than this one.

I would dearly love to know the no doubt twisted and tortuous process this segment took to get to air. I could imagine everyone from Jeff Zucker to CNN’s legal department had a say on it. I could see how CNN management might see this as an opportunity to try and put this to bed while at the same time having the segment come across as some sort of transparency example; a “We’re not afraid to tackle the tough issues even when we’re the subject matter” if you will. Too bad the segment failed at both.

This segment underscores why nothing short of CNN coming clean with a full in depth and forthright explanation will suffice here. All we’ve had are tortured responses. CNN issued a vaguely tortured response standing by its 2012 investigation and has said nothing since, while Zakaria continues to bleed all over it thanks to OBM’s continuing “agenda”. This segment was itself a tortured response in what it cherry picked to highlight and what it chose to gloss over, no doubt with CNN management input.

But all these tortured responses have done is make the situation worse. Those of us who want CNN to come out with something more comprehensive in regards to Zakaria in general and specifically in regards to how OBM’s examples square with CNN’s journalism standards, are able to shred these responses apart with all too much ease. If you’re going to respond you need to make your response bulletproof, not give your critics more ammunition in the form of new questions precisely because your responses have been so tortured.

Personally, I think CNN’s intransigence on Zakaria has less to do with Zakaria and more to do with what benchmark it sets if the network did launch a new investigation…never mind reprimand him or cut him loose. I think the network is worried, at least partially, that applying print plagiarism standards to its TV scripts, TV reporting in the field, and web news articles, could open up a Pandora’s box of hurt down the road. Better to back Zakaria and take a few bumps and bruises now than to set what would amount to a new standard (or at the very least what is today a very rarely publicly applied standard) for TV News networks.

Zakaria: Zucker Speaks…

Posted in CNN on September 24, 2014 by icn2

Politico’s Hadas Gold gets Jeff Zucker to comment on Fareed Zakaria…

CNN President Jeff Zucker said he continues to have confidence in Fareed Zakaria in the wake of charges the CNN host plagiarized material.

“We continue to have complete confidence in Fareed,” Zucker told POLITICO after a luncheon with reporters on Tuesday.

When pressed further if that meant Zakaria would continue appearing on CNN, Zucker repeated that they have complete confidence in the host.

As I suggested Monday, this is now the wrong line of questioning to throw at CNN. The new line of questioning should be about how CNN’s standards square with the case OBM has laid out against Zakaria and how the examples OBM cites jive with those standards.

Meanwhile OBM today took a new tack, criticizing Slate’s Jacob Weisberg for pooh-poohing OBM’s accusations and citing alleged examples of plagiarism Zakaria may have made when writing at Slate.

Now a Jacob Weisberg might say, “Sure, Zakaria messed up by missing an ellipsis and not citing Rudin. But that’s nitpicking – plus, he cites Rudin later on in the piece! That should count, somehow, because he’s plugged my book!” Weisberg would be right that a few hundred words later, Zakaria then mentions Rudin’s article for the first and last time— but it’s only as a citation for the first published recipes for the martini. Zakaria doesn’t just stop there. He then proceeds to lift a number of lines from it, a decision made all the more glaring by Zakaria referring to himself personally while making the same observations as Rudin:

Zakaria lifts Rudin’s passage that in the 19th century, cocktails were known as morning “eye-openers.”

While Rudin says the martini “acquired…a glamorous mystique” in the post-war era, Zakaria thinks it “acquired an air of mystery and glamour.”

Rudin states that FDR, Cole Porter, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Nick Charles—a fictional character from the novel and movie The Thin Man—enjoyed a martini.

Fareed Zakaria not only mentions all the same people, but appears to have gotten the impression from Rudin’s article that Nick Charles, among “the most debonair men of the time,” was a real person who appeared in a movie.

Zakaria also uses Rudin’s note on FDR’s preference for a teaspoon of olive brine.

(snip)

A Jacob Weisberg might say, after checking his Google Alerts for “British Ski Instructor Theory,” something like “Alright, I admit – Zakaria clearly mined the shit out of Rudin’s piece for anecdotes and language. But that’s still not theft!” Take a look at the final example below, where Zakaria somehow stumbles onto the same idea that the martini came to represent modernism and that the person to validate that quote was Paul Desmond of the Dave Brubeck Quartet. Where would he ever get that idea (and the same language to express it)?

This isn’t over…but it has reached something of a they said/they said standoff. Will anyone else chime in from the MSM. Where’s David Bauder? Where’s Bill Carter?

CNN’s Standards Are Now The Story…

Posted in CNN on September 22, 2014 by icn2

Politico’s Dylan Byers got CNN again standing by its previous statement…

UPDATE (6:50 p.m.): CNN spokesperson Jennifer Dargan told me the network is standing by the statement it provided in the wake of Bort and Blappo’s initial report back in August. That statement follows:

CNN has the highest confidence in the excellence and integrity of Fareed Zakaria’s work. In 2012, we conducted an extensive review of his original reporting for CNN, and beyond the initial incident for which he was suspended and apologized for, found nothing that violated our standards. In the years since we have found nothing that gives us cause for concern.

Ok. CNN doubles down. Or triples down. Or quaduples down. They’re not going to change their mind. They’re bound and determined to go down with the SS Zakaria. Fine. Let’s play this out…

So now the story pivots from Fareed Zakaria and whatever he did or didn’t do to what the hell are CNN’s standards exactly?

Do CNN’s standards include plagiarism?
Do CNN’s standards include cut and paste jobs?
Do CNN’s standards include “patch writing”?

Our Bad Media has made a better than circumstantial case that Zakaria looks guilty of at least one of the above.

But if CNN feels that Zakaria is not guilty of any of the above how does it differntiate the definitions of those terms from what Zakaria has (not in CNN’s eyes) done? What makes what Zakaria did different? What are CNN’s standards?

CNN by standing by Zakaria and not commenting further to specifically rebut the latest OBM charges; charges which include incidents that occurred after the original 2012 story erupted, has opened up its own standards for examination for they are the very things the network said he has not violated.

Fareed Zakaria is radioactive and CNN has chosen to bask in the radiation. It just keeps digging itself deeper. Horrid PR and crisis management going on here. Absolutely horrid.

Zakaria: The Chinese Water Torture of CNN Continues…

Posted in CNN on September 22, 2014 by icn2

Drip, drip, drip on CNN…going more and more mainstream. The Week’s Ryan Cooper questions why Zakaria still has a job…

Some of the examples Our Bad Media has turned up are blatant instances of verbatim copy pasting. Others rephrase and lift ideas and original research without attribution, which is still plagiarism. Some of these may be accidental, but the weight of the evidence makes a crushing circumstantial case.

This is especially so when you consider several occasions in which he repeated facts that were out of date. During his show on April 29, 2012, he restated several facts about “last year” from this 2011 Economist piece — but didn’t update them with current data, making them inaccurate. The idea that all of this is a coincidence simply beggars belief.

(snip)

The comparison with Benny Johnson, who was fired by BuzzFeed after Our Bad Media similarly nailed him on plagiarism, is highly illustrative. Johnson also lifted research and language, and did some “patch writing” to cover his tracks. But if anything, Zakaria’s sins were worse. Johnson plagiarized to create worthless and offensive listicles about obvious, widely known stories. It was highly unethical, but not particularly harmful.

Zakaria, by contrast, swiped painstaking research about obscure subjects, such as when he bogarted exact language from The New York Times (see here and here) describing an analysis the paper had personally commissioned.

Benny Johnson is a right-wing clown. Fareed Zakaria, on the other hand, is a made man, one of the most famous and widely respected journalists in America. Accordingly, Our Bad Media’s findings impugn not just him, but half the journalistic establishment. It’s fairly obvious at this point that whatever the Post and CNN did to “review” his work back in 2012 was laughably inadequate. To sack him now would be to admit serious fault.

Indeed. What gets me here is that this 2012 review took place prior to Jeff Zucker taking over CNN Worldwide. Zucker could easily and effectively spin this as Jim Walton’s error and mount a new review to answer these charges. That he has not, I find simply stunning.

Meanwhile the bloggers from Our Bad Media have taken to the pages of Esquire to criticize CNN…with a big assist coming from Esquire.com’s News Editor Ben Collins who piles on in the forward…

This leads us to one of two conclusions:

1. CNN is afraid of the Wild West of Internet journalism, and what that might mean if old media outlets are subject to the same standards they project onto others.

2. Executives are uncomfortable with the names of these journalists being withheld (on Twitter, the reporters go by Crushing Bort and Blippo Blappo, comical aliases which have seemingly applied a low ceiling to their mainstream integrity) and the company would rather ignore it than pursue legitimate malfeasance.

Either way, this has become clear: CNN would rather employ, give airtime to, and defend a plagiarist whose resumé they find easy to personally explain and understand than someone who is doing actual journalism, but who might take more work to reach out to or understand.

Then the OBM guys chime in…

That the network’s own media reporter would have to “try” to get a quote from one of its own hosts over widely-documented plagiarism says everything about the dynamic at play here. Why would CNN defer to Zakaria on answering for why he plagiarized on their network? And what could he possibly say in his defense? That stealing material is defensible if the people who publicize it go by names that sound like third-rate Pokemon? Reporters have claimed as much publicly and in requests for interviews. They’ve told us that without going public, we can’t expect Zakaria to be held to account.

That claim, frankly, is bullshit. First, let’s be honest about needing names to verify someone else’s wrongdoing. Nothing about who we are will give readers a deeper insight into the wide span of plagiarism committed by Fareed Zakaria, and nothing about them gives his massive theft a pass. Our names would be an issue if our work couldn’t be checked. But everything we’ve posted is publically available information that can be verified independently by anyone with an Internet connection. There were no inside sources, disgruntled employees, or discarded scripts recovered from garbage cans. There was no plagiarism software used here, either. Finding examples of Zakaria’s plagiarism is as easy as a simple combination of Google and asking yourself common-sense questions like “would Fareed Zakaria really have reason to know this much about the growing rates of shampooing licenses?”

Second, reporters, media experts, and journalism professors have corroborated our findings. Byers outright called Zakaria a plagiarist last week in an article citing the director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Center for Journalism Ethics and The Poynter Institute’s VP for academic programs. LSU’s Steve Buttry has called it “high-level plagiarism.” So even if we live in a world where our journalism requires charges of plagiarism to be verified by mainstream reporters and experts, that box has been checked.

Third, even BuzzFeed eventually took action when we pointed out less than a dozen examples of plagiarism by Benny Johnson. Why should CNN—which literally bills itself as “The Most Trusted Name In News”—be able to ignore what BuzzFeed wouldn’t? Why would a press corps so eager to discuss plagiarism when it involves a relatively unknown social media editor fall largely silent on when it’s committed from one of the biggest names in journalism? If Fareed Zakaria can get away with plagiarism because we don’t name ourselves, we’re not the ones who look bad: reporters are.

CNN now faces its biggest journalistic crisis since the Operation Tailwind fiasco. It’s no longer just Zakaria’s alleged plagiarism that’s the issue. It is the network’s dogged refusal to publicly acknowledge that it even has a crisis to deal with. As I said Friday this approach is unsustainable. As more and more mainstream sites turn their attention to this story, CNN will have to do something.

CNN’s Current Public Position On Fareed Zakaria Is Unsustainable…

Posted in CNN on September 18, 2014 by icn2

Politico’s Dylan Byers comes down from the fence and proclaims the latest Fareed Zakaria accusations from Our Bad Media as plagiarism…

This week, I conducted a review of the reports to determine whether the instances they cited truly qualified as plagiarism. I also asked two journalism ethics experts — Robert Drechsel, the James E. Burgess chair and director of the Center for Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Kelly McBride, the vice president for academic programs of The Poynter Institute — to review the reports. They came to the same conclusion I did: Fareed Zakaria plagiarized.

Wow…Byers is not known to throw accusations of this sort around on a regular basis so to see him come out and throw the P word at Zakaria made me sit up and take notice. This is going mainstream now.

Byers went to CNN for comment…

CNN declined to comment on this report but instead referred POLITICO to the statement it had released one month ago in the wake of Our Bad Media’s initial accusations.

“CNN has the highest confidence in the excellence and integrity of Fareed Zakaria’s work,” the statement reads. “In 2012, we conducted an extensive review of his original reporting for CNN, and beyond the initial incident for which he was suspended and apologized for, found nothing that violated our standards. In the years since we have found nothing that gives us cause for concern.”

Bad move. CNN is desperately hoping this blows over and everyone moves off Zakaria but something is twisting in the wind this time…and it’s CNN itself.

Seven of the instances in the OBM report occurred after Zakaria had been suspended in 2012, so this isn’t a case of OBM digging up plagiarism examples from before he got suspended which would amount to little more than historical footnotes in a storyline that turned a corner after the 2012 suspension. We have examples from after the suspension…meaning it is still going on.

This is why CNN continuing to “comment” by referring back to the previous statement which references whatever due diligence was done investigating Zakaria back in 2012 is an unsustainable approach. You can’t say you investigated and cleared him after he was suspended and you’re satisfied if he’s still doing it. You end up looking brazenly foolish…like you are living in your own little reality distortion field.

CNN must respond and clear the air. What’s going on with Zakaria now directly threatens the network’s journalistic integrity because the network’s current “duck and cover” head in the sand approach is leaving the network twisting in the wind as unanswered questions swirl around the it. To wit:

1. If the network is serious when it says it’s satisfied with what Zakaria is doing, is that not at the very least a tacit approval of “patch writing”?
2. If the network does not view it as “patch writing”, then what is it? What makes what Zakaria has gotten nailed repeatedly by OBM for different from “patch writing”?
3. What exactly did CNN tell Zakaria about what he can and cannot do? Did this discussion even take place?

Lastly, will Brian Stelter have the balls to even bring this subject up on Reliable Sources? Or will the network spike him? This is precisely why I was so sad to see Stelter join CNN in the first place. He’s now compromised by his position as a CNN employee from turning his journalistic eyes on the very network that employs him.

CNN, this is now a new scandal. This isn’t 2012. What you said a few months ago is no longer operative as a reliable strategy. Deal with it and deal with it now before it gets any worse…

The Zakaria “Plagiarism” Saga: Part 3?

Posted in CNN on September 16, 2014 by icn2

Our Bad Media is back with another look at Zakaria and alleged examples of plagiarism…this time on CNN’s GPS.

It’s not surprising that CNN would stand behind Zakaria. What was curious about their statement was the claim that “In the years since [his 2012 scandal] we have found nothing that gives us cause for concern.” It was a response that seemed to imply that CNN has continued to review Zakaria’s show and other content for “lapses.”

After our own review of Fareed Zakaria GPS from 2011 to the present, we’ve found CNN’s claim is evidently false or a sign of gross incompetence at the network. Two dozen episodes of Fareed Zakaria GPS contain content that has been lifted without proper attribution or sourcing – including one he earned a Peabody for. One episode on vacation time was broadcast just two weeks ago. In other words, after having issued his only denial on the issue, Fareed Zakaria went back to plagiarizing while we were writing this blog post about him plagiarizing. It’s possible he’s plagiarizing right now.

OMB lists dozens of alleged examples of plagiarism by Zakaria on his show. The most damning for me is this one as it’s practically a smoking gun…

That’s where Zakaria sloppily gives his game away. The Economist article, written in 2011, cites the $400 billion Mexico did in trade with the U.S. “last year” – that is, 2010. Zakaria, apparently forgetting that The Economist article was written the previous August, also says “last year.” According to government statistics, the U.S. and Mexico did just short of $400 billion in trade in 2010. But in 2011, they did $461 billion in trade. So either Zakaria lifted this passage from The Economist, or he was off by the GDP of Luxembourg.

CNN is going to have to respond to this. There are too many instances listed for them to ignore it.

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