Earlier this week New York Times business reporter Zachery Kouwe resigned following a plagiarism debacle. While attention was originally drawn to an article that appeared exceptionally similar to a story in The Wall Street Journal, an investigation found that additional articles by Kouwe appear to have been plagiarized from various other media outlets.
Kouwe’s job was focused on writing for the Times‘ DealBook section and blog, which requires relatively short posts and articles about the large amount of business-related news.
While I was not in Kouwe’s position, I’d imagine that he spent most of his days browsing through press releases and news to identify topics for the blog, and used these releases and article as sources for information. Yes, he should have been more diligent in writing this information in his own words, but I don’t think this is entirely his fault – there is a problem with the system.
As blogs and breaking news reporting have taken over our news cycle, reporters have begun using other media outlets as sources more regularly. It’s easy to simply throw in a boxed quote onto a blog post – and enables you to get the information to your readers more efficiently and quickly then re-writing it yourself. However, if Kouwe simple posted large amounts of Wall Street Journal and BusinessWeek content into his articles, the Times’ would suddenly look like the Business Insider – which they definitely don’t want.
While only Kouwe knows if his plagiarism debacle was intentional or not, it’s clear that his job was to produce a lot of content daily through news announcements and articles, because there was no way he had enough time to actually investigate news like in the past. Is it his fault that he wrote his articles a little too carelessly or the Times’ fault for putting him in this position to begin with?