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A NYT Lede That Duplicates Wikipedia

PierodiCosimoWikipediaExhibit A is the fourth paragraph from the biography section of Wikipedia’s entry for Italian Renaissance painter Piero di Cosimo (all underlining is ours):

During his lifetime, Cosimo acquired a reputation for eccentricity — a reputation enhanced and exaggerated by later commentators such as Giorgio Vasari, who included a biography of Piero di Cosimo in his Lives of the Artists. Reportedly, he was frightened of thunderstorms, and so pyrophobic that he rarely cooked his food; he lived largely on hard-boiled eggs, which he prepared 50 at a time while boiling glue for his artworks. He also resisted any cleaning of his studio, or trimming of the fruit trees of his orchard; he lived, wrote Vasari, “more like a beast than a man.

Exhibit B is the first paragraph of Carol Vogel‘s July 24 New York Times item “A Renaissance Master Finally Gets a Showcase:”

Artists can be eccentric, but the quirks of the Italian Renaissance master Piero di Cosimo are legendary. He is said to have been terrified of thunderstorms and so pyrophobic that he rarely cooked his food, subsisting mostly on hard-boiled eggs that he prepared 50 at a time while heating glue for his art. He didn’t clean his studio. He didn’t trim the trees in his orchard. Giorgio Vasari, the Renaissance biographer, described Piero as living “more like a beast than a man.”

We have to agree with the tipster who brought this to our attention; Vogel’s lede is far too close to Wikipedia for unattributed comfort. The Times article was tied to the announcement of a major retrospective of di Cosimo’s work next year at Washington’s National Gallery of Art.

Update (July 30):
NYT public editor Margaret Sullivan has provided the paper’s first detailed response to our findings:

It seems to me that there can be little dispute about the claim, which was initially reported by Mediabistro’s FishbowlNY. Anyone can see the similarity. The question now is whether this is an isolated case or one of many instances. The Times is taking that question seriously.

I asked Ms. Vogel for comment by email on Wednesday morning; she declined.

Read the rest of Sullivan’s thoughts here. Her column includes what she thinks is the appropriate punishment for Vogel, provided the above was a single, isolated incident.

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