Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Plagiarism Incident Exposes Katie Couric.

Katie Couric has a certain earnestness that endeared her to morning TV audiences for years.

She brought that trait to the CBS Evening News, notably with the commentaries in the "Katie's Notebook" segment.

I don't watch her newscast, but Howard Kurtz, writing in the Washington Post, says "recent commentaries have ranged from the Iraq war and the paucity of female columnists to the movie "300" and many girls discarding dating for 'hooking up.'"

So I was really shocked to find this out:

Someone else writes these first-person pieces for Ms. Couric.

This came to light last week, when she did a piece on the joys of getting her first library card. Delivered in the first person, The piece borrowed substantially from a Wall Street Journal column by Jeffrey Zaslow.

"What made the ripoff especially striking," writes Kurtz, "was the personal flavor of a video -- now removed from the CBS Web site -- that began, 'I still remember when I got my first library card, browsing through the stacks for my favorite books.'"

CBS spokesperson Sandy Genelius said Couric was "horrified."

'Pon my soul!

What horrifies me is that Couric, paid millions and millions for her job, is willing to paint her face on a commentary she didn't write herself!

CBS says it's "very common" for the first-person commentaries to be put together by staffers without Couric's being involved in the writing, but that she does participate in topic selection. Really? Then why don't they let the writer speak in their own words, and put it on as an opinion piece, the way NPR airs commentary by Daniel Schorr, Ted Koppel, Judy Muller?

That plagiarism is an absolute no-no is Journalism 101. To show its contrition, CBS fired the producer who wrote the piece; the network issued profuse apologies, which WSJ has accepted. But what about Katie Couric? What's the penalty for her participation? I just cannot fathom is why she would give voice, in the first person, to thoughts she written by someone else. That seemed to be okay with her and CBS; they only seem ashamed about borrowing from the WSJ, without attribution. Had that plagiarism not occurred, might we have known that Katie's not really all about what she says she's about? This is a NEWS program, people!

It's a theft of ideas.

I remember some years ago working with a person I'll call LT, for Loathsome Toad. He often began conversations with "you know what I think?" He would proceed to spout an opinion gleaned from Entertainment Weekly, Vanity Fair or TV Guide. Worse, on more than one occasion, someone would come to me and say LT shared his idea for something or other...and then regale me with details of a plan I submitted to him, the day before! It's not just the lack of honor that was detestable; it was LT's utter stupidity in thinking the truth could be concealed in a small community.

Many public radio listeners enjoy Scott Simon on NPR's Weekend Edition Saturday for his wit and enthusiasm, and also his commentary, delivered in the first person - and we KNOW Scott wrote it himself, in his inimitable style.

Here's the whole Washington Post article on the plagiarism incident.


Scott Weatherly said...

What readers of Gillian's blog don't know is that I acutally write all of her blog entries. It sure was a pain to photoshop G into all of the Italy pictures!

Gillian Coldsnow said...

And I really should pay you more,, Scott, for making me look and sound so hip and happening!

Just occurred to me - if Don Imus had someone else write his first person would the scandal play out?