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Maureen Dowd

Saturday, May 23, 2009 by Dave Winer.

I don't want to make a federal case about it, but I don't think the press did enough checking into Maureen Dowd's explanation of the plagiarism that appeared in her column last week.  Permalink to this paragraph

Had it been a major political figure, say a Governor or the Speaker of the House, I doubt if a vague explanation about quoting a friend would have stopped the questions. (I'm thinking of Spitzer, McGreevy and Pelosi, just a few recent examples.) Permalink to this paragraph

Doesn't it beg the obvious question -- who was the friend? We should know if he or she corroborates Ms. Dowd's explanation. Clearly there was plagiarism, someone committed it. If this friend is a reporter or columnist, don't his or her readers have a right to know who they are? Permalink to this paragraph

And by the way, Dowd hasn't admitted to plagiarism. So if we're to forgive her, if this is one-time thing, doesn't she have to say: 1. She did it and 2. She's sorry. She's done neither. Permalink to this paragraph

This is all part of the problem with journalism today. Maybe it has always been this way and we haven't had the tools to communicate about them without going through them. Maybe they've always been lifting copy from other writers, and only now do we have the ability to report on them instead of reporting through them.  Permalink to this paragraph

We haven't gotten the facts from the Times and Ms. Dowd. We ought to press for them, the way a reporter would press a political leader. We, the public, their readers, are entitled to know what happened and what their standards are for columnists. If plagiarism is okay, then who can do it, and how much. Guidelines, public, open and transparent -- are a minimum requirement. Then we can decide for ourselves how much we want to trust the Times and their columnists. Permalink to this paragraph

I didn't read a single report from another journal saying that what Dowd did is wrong and that her explanation is unacceptable, and that the Times is stonewalling, all of which seem obvious to me. I don't know about other readers, but it's this casual attitude, the inside-dealing I see both within the press and with the people they cover that makes me unenthusiastic for ideas meant to "save" them. I'm more into reformation. I want a new kind of journalism that sees incidents like this as bugs to fix. An opportunity to make journalism even more excellent, instead of ever more mediocre. Permalink to this paragraph

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A picture named dave.jpgDave Winer, 54, pioneered the development of weblogs, syndication (RSS), podcasting, outlining, and web content management software; former contributing editor at Wired Magazine, research fellow at Harvard Law School, entrepreneur, and investor in web media companies. A native New Yorker, he received a Master's in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, a Bachelor's in Mathematics from Tulane University and currently lives in Berkeley, California.

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