Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Does anybody notice?

I have a dilemma. What do I do when I discover plagiarism by a writer for whom I had respect? A prominent businessman who had been writing weekly columns for years for an inhouse publication wrote a beautiful story about an interesting person. I wanted to learn more about the subject of this article and found out that the New York Times had written practically the same story about him three years ago.
What do I do? Is this just another example of "I didn't think anyone would notice?"

This reliance on not noticing is epidemic. Sarah Palin thought no one would notice that she had Paul Revere warning the British, not the colonists. Anthony Weiner thought no one would notice that his lewd photo was actually sent from his own cell phone. John Edwards thought no one would notice that his campaign funds paid for his "love child." Arnold Schwartzenegger thought no one would notice that his teenage godchild was in reality his own son. And so forth.

Back to the plagiarized column. The author wrote as if he himself had conducted an interview with a prominent naval admiral instead of rearranging the facts and either making up the quotes or copying them from the New York Times.

And, on, Amy Rosenberg got the story wrong about Rhea Hughes and her bicycle incident. This was not an egregious error. The spirit of the story was correct. Hughes was riding her bicycle on the wrong side of the street, facing traffic and was chastized for not riding with traffic. The fact that it was a bicyclist that scolded her, and not a motorist, was the error. Rhea Hughes emailed the journalist that she should have checked the facts with her and that she is always available. The journalist disputed that. Nevertheless, this appears to be another, contemporary example of "I didn't think anyone would notice" or even care.

My precocious grandchildren pulled the "I didn't think you would notice" line on their mother when they were two and three years old. One would think that mature authors would grow up and know better.

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