* Seymour Hersh foi o jornalista que noticiou o massacre de My Lai, no Vietname, em 1968, realizado por um grupo de soldados norte-americanos. Recentemente ele visitou o local pela primeira vez, escreveu sobre isso para a The New Yorker e deu uma entrevista – onde deixou o conselho aos jovens repórteres – à Columbia Journalism Review.
Todos os dias. Cada vez mais. Em todo o lado. Um problema muito sério do jornalismo mundial, analisado na Columbia Journalism Review.
Fareed Zakaria’s case highlights news organizations’ ethical grey areas
Some of Fareed Zakaria’s past and present publications are finally facing the music, even though they won’t acknowledge what it sounds like. Plagiarism accusations have dogged the CNN host and Washington Post columnist for years, though the drumbeat has crescendoed in recent months. Corrections and apologies have been added to a wide array of his previous work. But Zakaria appears in no danger of losing his prestigious jobs. Outcry within the journalistic community, meanwhile, has been unexpectedly mute, with many discussions focused on the semantic question of whether Zakaria’s mistakes constitute what some newsorganizations consider an unforgivable sin.
Zakaria’s high-profile case underlines the media’s long struggle with plagiarism — just not the struggle you’d expect. A review of examples from the past quarter-century shows that journalists have continuously grappled not only with the definition of plagiarism, but also how to respond to it. Punishment has been consistently inconsistent. And opinions vary on whether such sinners should be allowed back in the church. All of this comes as digital journalism continues to redraw the boundaries of originality, and the ease with which plagiarism is spotted continues to grow.
“Fabrication, obviously, is very black and white,” said Teresa Schmedding, president of the American Copy Editors Society and a deputy managing editor at the Daily Herald in Illinois. Such was the case with onetime New Republic scribe Stephen Glass, subject of a profile in the magazine’s recent anniversary issue, and Jonah Lehrer, an ex-New Yorker writer whose book deals grabbed headlines last week. “When it comes to plagiarism and punishment for it, the reason it’s so difficult is that it is more grey.”
And it always has been. A CJR cover story in 1995 analyzed 20 cases of plagiarism in the previous seven years, concluding, “Punishment is uneven, ranging from severe to virtually nothing even for major offenses.” Laura Parker was fired from The Post in 1991 for lifting quotes from the Associated Press and Miami Herald. Denver Post columnist Ken Hamblin, meanwhile, was suspended for two months in 1994 after he copied five paragraphs from a Rocky Mountain News report. “The sin itself carries neither public humiliation nor the mark of Cain,” CJR’s Trudy Lieberman wrote. “Some editors will keep a plagiarist on staff or will knowingly hire one if talent outweighs the infraction.”
A University of Maryland study found similar ambiguity in 76 newspaper plagiarism cases between 1997 and 2006. Forty-three of those offenders — 56 percent — lost their jobs, with the rate of punishment steadily increasing from minor to major to repeated infractions. Perhaps more interestingly, the papers’ word choice in publicly responding to those crimes largely correlated with their eventual sanctions — “plagiarism” typically garnered termination while synonymously described offenses earned lesser punishments.
A September analysis by Politico reporter Dylan Byers and two media ethics experts argued that Zakaria had indeed plagiarized a number of articles by “patch writing,” small changes to language that mask theft of larger ideas. “Case by case, the examples here qualify more as violations or misdemeanors than serious crimes,” Byers wrote. “But taken together, they show an undeniable pattern of behavior.” Disputing such behavior is a hard case to make without more details from Zakaria. The writer and TV host has remained relatively silent other than an August email to Politico rebutting some of the charges. He and CNN did not respond to emails seeking comment for this story.
On Nov. 7, Newsweekadded editor’s notes to seven of Zakaria’s columns from 2001 to 2010, saying they “borrowed extensively” from other sources “without attribution.” Slate did the same just days later for a 1998 article that “failed to properly attribute quotations and information.” After Our Bad Media last week highlighted questionable Zakaria pieces in The Washington Post, editorial page editor Fred Hiatt acknowledged “problematic sourcing” in five of those columns and has since amended four of them with editor’s notes.
The actions came two years after Zakaria was briefly suspended by CNN and Time for plagiarizing a column on gun control — a “terrible mistake,” he said in a statement then. Similar allegations have piled up this year, thanks largely to Our Bad Media’s anonymous watchdogs. Yet Zakaria has remained on air at CNN and in The Post’s opinion lineup, despite the organizations’ harsher punishment in recent years for similar ethical lapses. What’s more, the media outlets that publicly reprimanded Zakaria have been loathe to use the “p” word in describing his missteps.
Nos anos que conduziram à grande crise económica de 2008, os meios de comunicação que cobrem Wall Street conseguiram falhar a maior história de todas. Num excerto do livro The Watchdog That Didn’t Bark: The Financial Crisis and the Disappearance of Investigative Journalism, adaptado pela Columbia Journalism Review, Dean Starkman explica como e porquê.
In the run-up to the Great Recession, accountability journalism saw the story that access journalism missed
The US business press failed to investigate and hold accountable Wall Street banks and major mortgage lenders in the years leading up to the financial crisis of 2008. That’s why the crisis came as such a shock to the public and to the press itself. ¶ And that’s the news about the news.
The watchdog didn’t bark. What happened? How could an entire journalism subculture, understood to be sophisticated and plugged in, miss the central story occurring on its beat? And why was it that some journalists, mostly outside the mainstream, were able to produce work that in fact did reflect the radical changes overtaking the financial system while the vast majority in the mainstream did not?
This book is about journalism watchdogs and what happens when they don’t bark. What happens is the public is left in the dark about, and powerless against, complex problems that overtake important national institutions. Few need reminders, even today, of the costs of the crisis: 10 million Americans uprooted by foreclosure with even more still threatened, 23 million unemployed or underemployed, whole communities set back a generation, shocking bailouts for the perpetrators, political polarization here and instability abroad. And so on and so forth.
Was the brewing crisis really such a secret? Was it all so complex as to be beyond the capacity of conventional journalism and, through it, the public, to understand? Was it all so hidden? In fact, the answer to all those questions is “no.” The problem—distorted incentives corrupting the financial industry—was plain, but not to Wall Street executives, traders, rating agencies, analysts, quants, or other financial insiders. It was plain to the outsiders: state regulators, plaintiffs’ lawyers, community groups, defrauded mortgage borrowers, and, mostly, to former employees of financial institutions, the whistleblowers, who were, in fact, blowing the whistle. A few reporters actually talked to them, understood the metastasizing problem, and wrote about it. Unfortunately, they didn’t work for the mainstream business press.
In the aftermath of the Lehman bankruptcy of September 2008, a great fight broke out over the causes of the crisis—a fight that’s more or less resolved at this point. While of course it’s complicated, Wall Street and the mortgage lenders stand front and center in the dock. Meanwhile, a smaller fight broke out over the business press’ role. After all, its central beat—the one over which it claims particular mastery—is the same one that suddenly melted down, to the shock of one and all. For business reporters, the crisis was more than a surprise. There was even something uncanny about it. A generation of professionals had, in effect, grown up with this set of Wall Street firms and had put them on the covers of Fortune and Forbes, the front page of The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, and the rest, scores of times. The firms were so familiar, the press had even given them anthropomorphized personalities over the years: Morgan Stanley, the white-shoe wasp firm; Merrill Lynch, the scrappy Irish-Catholic firm, often considered the dumb one; Goldman, the elite Jewish firm; Lehman, the scrappy Jewish firm; Bear Stearns, the naughty one, etc. Love them or hate them, there they were, blessed by accounting firms, rating agencies, and regulators, gleaming towers of power. Until one day, they weren’t.
Critics contended, understandably, that the business press must have been asleep at the wheel. In a March 2009 interview that would go viral, the comedian Jon Stewart confronted the CNBC personality Jim Cramer with the problem. Stewart said, in effect, that business journalism presents itself as providing wall-to-wall, 24/7 coverage of Wall Street but had somehow managed to miss the most important thing ever to happen on that beat—the Big One. “It is a game that you know is going on, but you go on television as a financial network and pretend it isn’t happening,” is how Stewart framed it. And many understood exactly what he meant.
Top business-news professionals—also understandably, perhaps—have defended their industry’s pre-crisis performance. In speeches and interviews, these professionals assert that the press in fact did provide clear warnings and presented examples of pre-crisis stories that told about brewing problems in the lending system before the crash. Some have gone further and asserted that it was the public itself that had failed—failed to respond to the timely information the press had been providing all along. “Anybody who’s been paying attention has seen business journalists waving the red flag for several years,” wrote Chris Roush, in an article entitled “Unheeded Warnings,” which articulated the professionals’ view at length. Diana Henriques, a respected New York Times business and investigative reporter, defended her profession in a speech in November 2008: “The government, the financial industry and the American consumer—if they had only paid attention—would have gotten ample warning about this crisis from us, years in advance, when there was still time to evacuate and seek shelter from this storm.” There were many such pronouncements. Then the press moved on.
It is only fair to point out that, beyond speeches and assertions, the business press has not published a major story on its own peculiar role in the financial system before the crisis. It has, meanwhile, investigated and taken to task virtually every other possible agent in the crisis: Wall Street banks, mortgage lenders, the Federal Reserve, the Securities and Exchange Commission, Fannie Mae, Freddy Mac, the Office of Thrift Supervision, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, compensation consultants, and so on. This kind of forensic work is entirely appropriate. But what about the watchdog?
In the spring of 2009, the Columbia Journalism Review, where I work as an editor, undertook a project with a simple goal: to assess whether the business press, as it contended, did indeed provide the public with adequate warning of looming dangers when it could have made a difference. The idea was to perform a fair reading of the record of institutional business reporting before the crash. We created a commonsense list of nine major business news outlets (The Wall Street Journal, Fortune, Forbes,Businessweek, the Financial Times, Bloomberg, The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and The Washington Post) and used news databases to search for stories that could plausibly be considered warnings about the heart of the problem: abusive mortgage lenders and their funders on Wall Street. We then asked the news outlets to volunteer their best work during this period, and, to their credit, nearly all of them cooperated.
The result was “Power Problem,” published in the spring of 2009. Its conclusion was simple: The business press had done everything but take on the institutions that brought down the financial system. The record shows that the press published its hardest-hitting investigations of lenders and Wall Street between 2000 and 2003, even if there were only a few of them. Then, for reasons I will attempt to explain, it lapsed into useful but not sufficient consumer- and investor-oriented stories during the critical years of 2004 through 2006. Missing are investigative stories that directly confront powerful institutions about basic business practices while those institutions were still powerful. The watchdog didn’t bark.”
O artigo completo está aqui.
Francesca Borri é uma jornalista italiana que está na Síria a cobrir uma guerra civil que há muito ultrapassou os limites do aceitável. Como a maioria dos correspondentes no terreno, é freelancer. Isto significa que trabalha sem seguro, sem protecção, sem apoio e que vende artigos por quantias tão baixas que mal consegue pagar a estadia na… Síria. No mês passado ela escreveu um texto para a Columbia Journalism Review sobre os seus dias correspondente de guerra que é um retrato brutal dos jornais, do jornalismo e da nossa própria (falta de) humanidade.
He finally wrote to me. After more than a year of freelancing for him, during which I contracted typhoid fever and was shot in the knee, my editor watched the news, thought I was among the Italian journalists who’d been kidnapped, and sent me an email that said: “Should you get a connection, could you tweet your detention?”
That same day, I returned in the evening to a rebel base where I was staying in the middle of the hell that is Aleppo, and amid the dust and the hunger and the fear, I hoped to find a friend, a kind word, a hug. Instead, I found only another email from Clara, who’s spending her holidays at my home in Italy. She’s already sent me eight “Urgent!” messages. Today she’s looking for my spa badge, so she can enter for free. The rest of the messages in my inbox were like this one: “Brilliant piece today; brilliant like your book on Iraq.” Unfortunately, my book wasn’t on Iraq, but on Kosovo.
People have this romantic image of the freelancer as a journalist who’s exchanged the certainty of a regular salary for the freedom to cover the stories she is most fascinated by. But we aren’t free at all; it’s just the opposite. The truth is that the only job opportunity I have today is staying in Syria, where nobody else wants to stay. And it’s not even Aleppo, to be precise; it’s the frontline. Because the editors back in Italy only ask us for the blood, the bang-bang. I write about the Islamists and their network of social services, the roots of their power—a piece that is definitely more complex to build than a frontline piece. I strive to explain, not just to move, to touch, and I am answered with: “What’s this? Six thousand words and nobody died?”
Actually, I should have realized it that time my editor asked me for a piece on Gaza, because Gaza, as usual, was being bombed. I got this email: “You know Gaza by heart,” he wrote. “Who cares if you are in Aleppo?” Exactly. The truth is, I ended up in Syria because I saw the photographs in Time by Alessio Romenzi, who was smuggled into Homs through the water pipes when nobody was yet aware of the existence of Homs. I saw his shots while I was listening to Radiohead—those eyes, staring at me; the eyes of people being killed by Assad’s army, one by one, and nobody had even heard of a place called Homs. A vise clamped around my conscience, and I had to go to Syria immediately.
But whether you’re writing from Aleppo or Gaza or Rome, the editors see no difference. You are paid the same: $70 per piece. Even in places like Syria, where prices triple because of rampant speculation. So, for example, sleeping in this rebel base, under mortar fire, on a mattress on the ground, with yellow water that gave me typhoid, costs $50 per night; a car costs $250 per day. So you end up maximizing, rather than minimizing, the risks. Not only can you not afford insurance—it’s almost $1,000 a month—but you cannot afford a fixer or a translator. You find yourself alone in the unknown. The editors are well aware that $70 a piece pushes you to save on everything. They know, too, that if you happen to be seriously wounded, there is a temptation to hope not to survive, because you cannot afford to be wounded. But they buy your article anyway, even if they would never buy the Nike soccer ball handmade by a Pakistani child.
With new communication technologies there is this temptation to believe that speed is information. But it is based on a self-destructive logic: The content is now standardized, and your newspaper, your magazine, no longer has any distinctiveness, and so there is no reason to pay for the reporter. I mean, for the news, I have the Internet—and for free. The crisis today is of the media, not of the readership. Readers are still there, and contrary to what many editors believe, they are bright readers who ask for simplicity without simplification. They want to understand, not simply to know. Every time I publish an eyewitness account from the war, I get a dozen emails from people who say, “Okay, great piece, great tableaux, but I want to understand what’s going on in Syria.” And it would so please me to reply that I cannot submit an analysis piece, because the editors would simply spike it and tell me, “Who do you think you are, kid?”—even though I have three degrees, have written two books, and spent 10 years in various wars, first as a human-rights officer and now as a journalist. My youth, for what it’s worth, vanished when bits of brain splattered on me in Bosnia, when I was 23.
Freelancers are second-class journalists—even if there are only freelancers here, in Syria, because this is a dirty war, a war of the last century; it’s trench warfare between rebels and loyalists who are so close that they scream at each other while they shoot each other. The first time on the frontline, you can’t believe it, with these bayonets you have seen only in history books. Today’s wars are drone wars, but here they fight meter by meter, street by street, and it’s fucking scary. Yet the editors back in Italy treat you like a kid; you get a front-page photo, and they say you were just lucky, in the right place at the right time. You get an exclusive story, like the one I wrote last September on Aleppo’s old city, a UNESCO World Heritage site, burning as the rebels and Syrian army battled for control. I was the first foreign reporter to enter, and the editors say: “How can I justify that my staff writer wasn’t able to enter and you were?” I got this email from an editor about that story: “I’ll buy it, but I will publish it under my staff writer’s name.”
And then, of course, I am a woman. One recent evening there was shelling everywhere, and I was sitting in a corner, wearing the only expression you could have when death might come at any second, and another reporter comes over, looks me up and down, and says: “This isn’t a place for women.” What can you say to such a guy? Idiot, this isn’t a place for anyone. If I’m scared, it’s because I’m sane. Because Aleppo is all gunpowder and testosterone, and everyone is traumatized: Henri, who speaks only of war; Ryan, tanked up on amphetamines. And yet, at every torn-apart child we see, they come only to me, a “fragile” female, and want to know how I am. And I am tempted to reply: I am as you are. And those evenings when I wear a hurt expression, actually, are the evenings I protect myself, chasing out all emotion and feeling; they are the evenings I save myself.
Because Syria is no longer Syria. It is a nuthouse. There is the Italian guy who was unemployed and joined al-Qaeda, and whose mom is hunting for him around Aleppo to give him a good beating; there is the Japanese tourist who is on the frontlines, because he says he needs two weeks of “thrills”; the Swedish law-school graduate who came to collect evidence of war crimes; the American musicians with bin Laden-style beards who insist this helps them blend in, even though they are blonde and six-feet, five-inches tall. (They brought malaria drugs, even if there’s no malaria here, and want to deliver them while playing violin.) There are the various officers of the various UN agencies who, when you tell them you know of a child with leishmaniasis (a disease spread by the bite of a sand fly) and could they help his parents get him to Turkey for treatment, say they can’t because it is but a single child, and they only deal with “childhood” as a whole.
But we’re war reporters, after all, aren’t we? A band of brothers (and sisters). We risk our lives to give voice to the voiceless. We have seen things most people will never see. We are a wealth of stories at the dinner table, the cool guests who everyone wants to invite. But the dirty secret is that instead of being united, we are our own worst enemies; and the reason for the $70 per piece isn’t that there isn’t any money, because there is always money for a piece on Berlusconi’s girlfriends. The true reason is that you ask for $100 and somebody else is ready to do it for $70. It’s the fiercest competition. Like Beatriz, who today pointed me in the wrong direction so she would be the only one to cover the demonstration, and I found myself amid the snipers as a result of her deception. Just to cover a demonstration, like hundreds of others.
Yet we pretend to be here so that nobody will be able to say, “But I didn’t know what was happening in Syria.” When really we are here just to get an award, to gain visibility. We are here thwarting one another as if there were a Pulitzer within our grasp, when there’s absolutely nothing. We are squeezed between a regime that grants you a visa only if you are against the rebels, and rebels who, if you are with them, allow you to see only what they want you to see. The truth is, we are failures. Two years on, our readers barely remember where Damascus is, and the world instinctively describes what’s happening in Syria as “that mayhem,” because nobody understands anything about Syria—only blood, blood, blood. And that’s why the Syrians cannot stand us now. Because we show the world photos like that 7-year-old child with a cigarette and a Kalashnikov. It’s clear that it’s a contrived photo, but it appeared in newspapers and websites around the world in March, and everyone was screaming: “These Syrians, these Arabs, what barbarians!” When I first got here, the Syrians stopped me and said, “Thank you for showing the world the regime’s crimes.” Today, a man stopped me; he told me, “Shame on you.”
Had I really understood something of war, I wouldn’t have gotten sidetracked trying to write about rebels and loyalists, Sunnis and Shia. Because really the only story to tell in war is how to live without fear. It all could be over in an instant. If I knew that, then I wouldn’t have been so afraid to love, to dare, in my life; instead of being here, now, hugging myself in this dark, rancid corner, desperately regretting all I didn’t do, all I didn’t say. You who tomorrow are still alive, what are you waiting for? Why don’t you love enough? You who have everything, why you are so afraid?
With the exception of Alessio Romenzi, the names in this article have been changed for reasons of privacy.”