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A "plagiarized" account of Maureen Dowd's plagiarism

By Jimmy Orr / May 18, 2009

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd is in hot water for lifting a paragraph from a blog written by Talking Points Memo founder Josh Marshall without attributing the source.

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To better illustrate a point or a thought when writing a column, article, or blog it goes without saying that it's commonplace and perfectly acceptable to quote someone or some source.

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Almost 100 percent of the time, for example, someone else's words will be a big improvement over anything that we can muster up on this blog.

So that's how we'll tell the story of New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd's attribution malfunction (but just to be wacky, we'll attribute the sources).

Caution

It is an axiom of the new digital media age that high-profile political columnists should generally avoid copying other people's words without attribution. Nobody wants to have the p-word hung around their necks.

It is a further axiom of the age that if a columnist is to borrow a paragraph unattributed, then at least they should ensure it doesn't belong to Josh Marshall. The man behind Talking Points Memo is one of the sharpest, most deadly bloggers around. [The Guardian]

Oops

Maureen Dowd, whose barbed-worded columns for The New York Times never have lacked for original thoughts about the Bush administration, has admitted to some borrowed words. She reports that it was inadvertent. [The Swamp]

In the original column, Dowd wrote: "More and more the timeline is raising the question of why, if the torture was to prevent terrorist attacks, it seemed to happen mainly during the period when the Bush crowd was looking for what was essentially political information to justify the invasion of Iraq."

Marshall last week wrote virtually the same sentence. But where Dowd's column used the phrase "the Bush crowd was," Marshall used "we were." [Associated Press]

Accidental

Dowd claims this was an accident, and that she got the idea for the material in question while chatting with a friend.

Yes, it's odd that her "friend" recalled Marshall's article verbatim, but that's Dowd's story and she's sticking to it. No one ever accused the gal of lacking moxie. [Huffington Post]

Odd

But that raised other issues about whether it's common practice for Dowd to use entire passages from friends in her column without attribution. And when I sent a follow-up email about this to Dowd, she didn't respond. ...

So I put the question of whether this is common practice for columnists before Times editorial page editor Andy Rosenthal, who passed me along to PR. But now I've now received a statement supporting Dowd from spokesperson Diane McNulty:

"Maureen had us correct the column online as soon as the error was brought to her attention, adding in the sourcing to Marshall's blog. We ran a correction in today's paper, referring readers to the correct version online.

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