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Politico Reporter Dismissed for Plagiarism

A NYT reporter has brought information to Politico‘s Editor-in-Chief John Harris and Executive Editor Jim VandeHei that has led to a reporter’s forced resignation. Politico issued a lengthy and serious memo tonight to employees announcing that Kendra Marr, a national political reporter who recently moved to a transportation beat, has been let go after numerous examples of lifted passages from other publications surfaced in seven of her stories.

The news is weighing hard on Politico executives. Marr was a beloved reporter in the newsroom. Even in their Editor’s note they refer to her as a “friend.” She was conscientious, solid. She wasn’t known to be among Politico‘s rock stars, but as a former reporter for WaPo whose work has appeared in The Orange County Register, San Jose Mercury News and The Miami Herald, she had a bright future. Now, we’re told, her career in Washington journalism is effectively over.

“We have some difficult news to share,” begins the memo. “Kendra Marr, who has been a valued colleague and friend during her time here, has offered her resignation, and her editors have accepted.”

Those who know her well say there is no way Marr did this maliciously or even, necessarily, knowingly. Nor is anyone internally comparing this to a Jayson Blair (formerly with the NYT) type scenario. They reason pressure and sloppiness contributed to her fall.

The memo continues, “The background on this episode, which came to light late last night and today, is shared with readers in an editors’ note that we have included below. There were instances of language and ideas published in at least seven of her POLITICO stories that borrowed without attribution from work that had been published previously in other publications. As we say in the editors’ note, we have found no cases of invention of scenes and quotes. Even so, these examples represented a lapse of our standards that we could not defend or tolerate. It is a reminder to all of us to take care in our work, to err on the side of attribution and transparency, and to never forget that our trust with readers is something that has to be preserved and built upon every day, in every story. We will be following up on these lessons in newsroom conversations in coming days.”

Top brass isn’t taking the matter lightly. In an Editor’s note to readers, Politico does something it has rarely, if ever, done: They apologize to their journalistic colleagues, competitors and readers.

“Editors’ note: One of the inviolable principles of journalism, one we live by at POLITICO, is that the work we publish must be genuinely our own. Whenever we must rely on reporting or ideas that were first produced by others, our policy is to cite and/or link to these sources by name, and aim to be fully transparent with our audience. In all other instances, our readers deserve full confidence that the reporting and writing in POLITICO is original. We learned Thursday of a case where a reporter published work in POLITICO that fell short of this bright line. We are taking action in response, including this explanation of what happened to our readers.”

See Marr’s now corrected and properly attributed stories after the jump…

More from the Editor’s note: “Late in the evening of Wednesday, October 12, the writer of a piece about transportation policy published in the New York Times e-mailed one of our senior editors about potential problems with a piece on the same subject that was published in POLITICO. Early Thursday morning, editors here compared the pieces, and did see some similarities in phrasing. These were troubling enough to warrant further examination of reporter Kendra Marr’s work. This examination produced other examples of stories on transportation issues that bore troubling similarities to work earlier published by others. Some of these examples involved specific turns of phrase or passages that bore close resemblance to work published elsewhere. Others involved similarities in the way stories were organized to present their findings. None of these examples represented invention of quotes, scenes, or other material. Our inquiry did conclude that there had been an unacceptable violation of our journalistic standards. Material published in our pages borrowed from the work of others, without attribution, in ways which we cannot defend and will not tolerate. Marr is a friend and colleague who has produced much outstanding work here and elsewhere. She offered her resignation Thursday, and we accepted. Our standard at POLITICO is to be candid with ourselves and our readers when we err, and to move swiftly, fairly, and transparently to ensure that we maintain public trust. We have added clarifications on all pieces in which we have discovered problems with improper borrowing and inadequate attribution, and will do so on any others that we discover. The corrected pieces are listed below. POLITICO apologizes to our journalistic colleagues and competitors for these errors, and to our readers for the lapse.”

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