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Posts Tagged ‘Fareed Zakaria’

Scandal du Jour: Plagiarism!

The Words” is a new film starring everyone’s favorite faux Frenchman, Bradley Cooper. Its plot, as we understand it, revolves around the concept of author as plagiarist–and while we can’t exactly recommend the movie based on its critical reception, we thought we’d use this opportunity (and the emergence of another small-scale plagiarism story) to examine parallel scandals that engaged the chattering classes this summer: the public trials of Jonah Lehrer and Fareed Zakaria.

Seems like everyone is copying the work of others these days–even noted wordsmith Chuck Norris has been caught red-handed. The two men at the center of this hot topic are very different personalities—and both the charges leveled against them and the public’s reaction to their respective PR crises have been very different as well. Fareed Zakaria is a respected journalist and TV news personality while Jonah Lehrer is (or, more accurately, was) a rising writer, speaker, and acknowledged expert in the realms of neurology and human behavior.

What, exactly, did they do?

Zakaria copied a paragraph of a Time article on gun control from an earlier New Yorker piece by historian Jill Lepore. CNN also found that one of his blog posts for CNN.com “contained similar unattributed quotes.” When accused of other acts of sloppy journalism, he lashed out at critics before backing down.

Lehrer’s first crime was plagiarizing himself—observers discovered that he often repeated passages that had appeared in previous columns or books. While this was bad news for Lehrer, it wasn’t necessarily the end of the world. Unfortunately, further investigations uncovered a disturbing history of similar behavior during his time at Wired and other publications. And that wasn’t the worst of it: The final, damning revelation was the fact that Lehrer had straight-up invented nonexistent Bob Dylan quotes for his bestselling book “Imagine”—and when pressed on his offense, he denied it and made more false claims before breaking down and confessing to his own dishonesty.

The saddest part about these stories is that both writers remain very talented, very busy men who obviously bit off more than they could chew. What conclusions can we, as PR and media professionals, draw from their cases?

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The President’s Media Diet

barack-obama-reading1.jpg

One of the questions PRNewser sometimes asks in interviews is, “What do you read?” We’re always interested in hearing from executives about what publications compose their media diet.

Thankfully, none have given an answer akin to Sarah Palin‘s “all of them” during the 2008 campaign, when pressed by CBS’ Katie Couric as to which newspapers and magazines she reads.

On that note, The Washington Post today published a story that looks into the influencers in President Obama’s decision making process, including media. Of note: Senior adviser David Axelrod told the Post Obama reads magazines including the New Yorker, the Economist, Sports Illustrated and Rolling Stone. Axelrod added,”There are some commentators whose views he’s interested in, and he’ll read blog items.”

Of course, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs‘ daily briefings on C-SPAN are must see TV, said former communications director Anita Dunn. Read the full story here.

[Image: President Obama holding a copy of Fareed Zakaria's "The Post American World."]