By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Editor’s statement

Jessica Heslam reproduces an e-mail from Jon Keller’s editor, Michael Flamini:

Jon Keller’s The Bluest State is a political book written by a journalist for a trade audience. His book is based mainly on his years of reporting on the state and local governments of Massachusetts and its politicians, and includes coverage of public events and press conferences attended by many journalists. Jon Keller’s book is a lively and controversial work with a pointed thesis. The Bluest State is more akin to an op-ed piece than to a work of historical analysis or an academic treatise. It is unreasonable to expect extensive footnotes for each and every quote, or a lengthy bibliography. What’s more, references are made in the book’s index and throughout the text to quotes and facts reported in other newspapers, including the Boston Herald and the Boston Globe. Thus, Jon Keller discloses to his readers, throughout his book, that he has occasionally relied on others’ reporting (in addition to relying on his own prodigious reporting) when he sometimes includes quotes made by individuals or other facts previously reported.

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  1. Anonymous

    Pathetic. Dan, what has happened to you?

  2. David Appell

    > It is unreasonable to expect > extensive footnotes for each and > every quoteThis is profoundly and completely untrue. It is, in fact, what good journalists do every day of the year. Why couldn’t Keller?

  3. Steve

    I have not read _The Bluest State_, so I don’t really know how to do a comparison.But just to check this out for myself I pulled out 5 books. A couple were immediately unsuited to comparison (Reich’s _Locked in the Cabinet_ is a memoir – no footnotes; Diffie and Landau’s _Privacy on the Line_ is more academic – 40 pages of notes for 240 pages of material, plus a bibliography and an index).That left 3:Moore and Slater’s _The Architect_, Woodward’s _Plan of Attack_, and Greenwald’s _How Would a Patriot Act?_.Greenwald’s reads like a series of op-eds. He quotes extensively and has attributions in with the text. No footnotes._The Architect_ is extensively sourced – 30 pages of notes for 277 pages of material. This I think is pretty standard for “attack” books. In the Internet age, everything in this sort of book is vigorously checked by the attackees and their defenders.Woodward’s is FULL of quotes, and very little of it is attributed. There are acknowledgments of many reporters and the Post’s editorial staff.Did Woodward catch any heat for his attribution style?

  4. Anonymous

    Even Meggy Cleary said “I did it all to myself, I have no one else to blame.” Keller had a very bad week. But he wasn’t hosed by Heslam, or anybody else. Stop making excuses and try acknowledging that Keller’s sins of ommision were selfinflicted and nobodies fault but his own.

  5. Dan Kennedy

    Actually, Woodward has taken a huge amount of heat for his attribution style over the years, but it doesn’t seem to stop him.

  6. mike_b1

    What I find interesting about the defense of Keller et al’s approach is that because it’s a so-called trade book, footnoting is not necessarily expected. I would think, however, that when writing for a specific audience, one which may well use the piece as reference for their own future reporting/books, proper documentation would be highly desirable. (Note that I have not and do not plan on reading Keller’s book, and as such am not focusing my statements on him so much as a group of literature to which his book apparently belongs.)The question as I see it is, Should media critics dismiss complaints against the current practice with a teen-like “Everybody else does it” brush off, or should they push their subjects to attain a higher standard?

  7. Dan Kennedy

    Mike: I think I’ve been doing both. But since this all started as an attack on Keller, I would suggest that “everybody else does it” has to be the first fact that we establish.

  8. Anonymous

    This all started as an attack on Keller?

  9. Anonymous

    As the Anon. who issued the “challenge” for 10 examples of books in the same genre with citation and attribution practices similar to Keller’s, I want to point out that I’m not even asking about footnotes, necessarily. The bar is much lower than that. I’m looking for relevant examples in which the author frequently uses other sources with no attribution at all, i.e., doesn’t even say “so-and-so told the Globe,” or whatever.And Dan – It seems that others here are able to grab books off the shelf and address this question with far less trouble and effort than you appear to think would be required. And it doesn’t really seem like anyone’s getting “slimed,” either.

  10. Anonymous

    It strikes me that, if a book is a “trade book,” that would necessitate citations to source, whether in footnotes or in endnotes. References are definitely required in science publications, even some that are intended for the lay-persons.–raj

  11. mike_b1

    Dan, this Keller stuff is an even bigger hit than your Bronson Arroyo love train. Ride the hot hand!

  12. Dan Kennedy

    And Mike, the best part is that I was right then and I’m right now.

  13. mike_b1

    Bronson Arroyo wouldn’t have made the 2007 Red Sox post-season roster.Of course, he’s available for your slow-pitch softball team. Just ask the Reds. They don’t want him. They even said so.

  14. Dan Kennedy

    Mike: Just to remind the three people who care, this was a conversation we had in 2006, not ’07. Arroyo might have helped the Sox make the post-season in ’06 if they hadn’t been devastated by injuries. Peña did nothing. As you may recall, Arroyo pitched in the 2006 All-Star Game, but of course that was the wrong decision. If I’m not mistaken, Curt Schilling at one point said he was unhappy with the Sox’ decision to trade him, but we all know Schilling is ignorant about baseball. And then the Reds gave him a big fat contract in the off-season, but they were wrong about that, too. Good Lord, when is MLB going to wake up and hire you as a general manager?

  15. mike_b1

    Dan, you are more fun than should be allowed. “Might have helped?” At least you’re coming back to Earth. The Reds made a mistake by extending Arroyo’s contract, something they acknowledged this year when they offered him all around the league (and there were no takers, I might add).Pena’s problem was he never got to play everyday. He has a long swing and his timing gets thrown off if he sits. In Washington, where Mickey Mantle would have trouble homering, he played everyday and hit 8 HRs/133 ABs and put up a .293/.352/.504 (BA/OBP/SLG) line. If JD Drew or Coco Crisp did that here, they would be sainted. He was, and is, a better bet to excel than Arroyo.I don’t want to be a GM. But I would make a damn better one that Schilling. Remember, he didn’t want to come to Boston in the first place because he is a flyball pitcher and mistakenly believed his stats would be hurt by Fenway. It took a stathead (Epstein) to prove him wrong. And if you look at the persons who have been the most successful GMs, they have not been professional baseball players (what does it say that none of the GMs of the playoff teams this year played major league ball?). When are you going to wake up and let the facts form your opinion, instead of the other way around?

  16. Tony

    Keller, conservative? Sheesh, these people haven’t really seen a conservative before if you think that. Or, maybe it is because Massachusetts is so liberal and the pols are so easy to beat up on, that people just assume Keller is conservative. I happy to think he is relatively moderate. He trashes both sides pretty well in his coverage.

  17. Anonymous

    So, there I was, about to doze off Friday night, and then there they were, on the midnight repeat of Beat the Press, offering up lame excuses for Jon Keller.- Dan, I actually felt sorry for you. Your assertions here notwithstanding, your visible discomfort on the show seemed to indicate that you get the gravity of the situation. But why were you silent when a couple of the panelists agreed that all Keller needed to do was to include a disclaimer – 3 lines, I think someone suggested – stating that some of the material in the book had been taken from news reports written by others? First of all, it’s my understanding such a disclaimer is already in the preface to the book. More importantly, you know that is not sufficient. Each reference to work done by others needed to have at least some form of attribution.- Amazon says Keller’s book is 272 pages. I don’t know if that includes preface and index or not. Whatever. If I heard right, it was stated on the show that there were about 3 dozen unattributed passages. That’s an average of one every 7 or 8 pages, at least. Which just seems like . . . . a lot. And given that many of them were probably used to hammer home some point, as in the case of Robert Kennedy Jr.’s remarks on the Cape wind project, I wonder, how much book would there have been without all that material taken from others without attribution? Isn’t it probably the case that if he had attributed everything properly, it would have been painfully obvious that he was relying too heavily on the work of others, that he had thrown together a collection of anecdotes and observations based on other people’s reporting and called it a book?

  18. Anonymous

    I’ve just gotten around to the piece the Herald ran Friday, putting about 30 lifted passages in The Bluest State side by side with their corresponding passages in articles originally published in the Globe and Herald. It’s six pages online: is just really, really bad. The book is full of outrageous, blatant plagiarism, much worse than I even expected.

  19. Anonymous

    From the Herald’s comparison piece:The Bluest State,pg.170“Thank God, she didn’t suffer,” said Angel Del Valle, the forty-six-year-old Puerto Rican grocery-store clerk who never even heard his wife scream as she was crushed to death by the most expensive public-construction project in American history. “It was like a bomb.” Boston Globe, 7/12/06Still, one of his few consolations, he said, was that his wife probably felt very little, if any, pain. He believes Milena died immediately.“Thank God, she didn’t suffer,” he said.Boston Herald, 7/12/06“It was like a bomb,” Angel “Papo” Luis Del Valle told the Herald, speaking Spanish through a translator as he stood at the gate of his sister’s Roxbury home.

  20. Anonymous

    More from the Herald:The Bluest State,pg.57Said the chairman of the board of selectmen in Newbury, a small suburb north of Boston where two overrides were rejected in one year, “I’ve been approached on the street by citizens saying ‘Stop asking us to raise our taxes, we are at the end of our rope. How many times do we have to tell you no?”The Boston Globe, 12/2/06“I’ve been approached on the street by citizens saying ‘How many times do we have to tell you no? Stop asking us to raise our taxes,”’ said Vincent J. Russo, chairman of the Board of Selectmen. “We are at the end of our ropes here as far as overrides.”

  21. Anonymous

    Two more glaring examples from the Herald’s comparison. You actually think the reader would be clear that Keller is refencing someone else’s work because he uses past tense? The Bluest State,pg.80Jack Duffy, chairman of the Wellesley Democratic Town Committee and a Jacques supporter, agreed that Lynch’s focus on health care and education had proven more relevant to voters than his candidate’s agenda. “If you ask the average suburban voter, ‘What do you think of Cheryl Jacques?’ they’ll say she is a feminist candidate who has abortion on her mind,” he said.The Boston Globe, 10/4/01Jack Duffy, chairman of the Wellesley Democratic Town Committee and a Jacques supporter, said Lynch did a much better job of talking about health care and education, while Jacques and her handlers, through the television advertising they aired, appeared focused on narrower issues that motivate party activists but not a large number of voters.“And yet,” he said, “I don’t think they did a good job of getting the issue across to the voters. If you ask the average suburban voter ‘What do you think of Cheryl Jacques?’ they’ll say she’s a feminist candidate who has abortion on her mind.”The Bluest State,pg.120Wellesley College political science Professor Marion Just saw a cross-generational union taking form. “There is a youthful anti-war movement who have the hippie generation to wake up with, and they are alarmed at how quickly we appear headed to war,” she said.The Boston Globe, 11/16/02“There is a youthful antiwar movement who have the hippie generation to wake up with,” said Wellesley political science professor Marion Just. “And they are alarmed at how quickly we appear headed to war.”

  22. Anonymous

    I would think Dan Kennedy would want to comment on the comparison piece the Herald ran on Oct. 19 and which I referenced here. I’d like to know how the reader would be expected to be clear on whether or not those passages had been directly reported by Keller, and why some form of attribution shouldn’t be expected for every one of them.In a comment to the first Media Nation post on this issue, Anon. 10:57 AM cited the example of the quote of Robert Kennedy Jr. In my opinion, nothing DK has said adequately addresses Anon. 10:57’s point:Including “Kennedy said by phone as he drove by a wind farm” really makes it sound as if Keller was the one Kennedy was speaking to. How hard is to write “Kennedy told the Boston Globe as he drove by a wind farm?”————————————-Examining the Herald’s Oct. 19 comparison article, I find dozens of examples in which exactly the same confusion could be expected on the part of the reader. Take this example:The Bluest State, pg.57Said the chairman of the board of selectmen in Newbury, a small suburb north of Boston where two overrides were rejected in one year, “I’ve been approached on the street by citizens saying ‘Stop asking us to raise our taxes, we are at the end of our rope. How many times do we have to tell you no?”The Boston Globe, 12/2/06“I’ve been approached on the street by citizens saying ‘How many times do we have to tell you no? Stop asking us to raise our taxes,”’ said Vincent J. Russo, chairman of the Board of Selectmen. “We are at the end of our ropes here as far as overrides.”How in the world could the reader be expected not to assume Keller interviewed Russo and obtained that quote himself? Let’s be clear. It does not matter if elsewhere in the book, Keller mentions that he sometimes uses material reported by others. Failing to attribute that specific passage to its original source is plagiarism.And contrary to what was said on Friday’s Beat the Press, this is not the fault of an editor or the publisher. This is Keller’s book and it was his responsibility to properly cite his sources. What reason would an editor have for assuming Keller didn’t get that quote himself?

  23. Dan Kennedy

    Anon 11:04: I’ve said all that needs to be said. The proof of that is that you are now dealing in out-and-out misinformation. You’re relying on a previous commenter’s post, rather than on the book itself or even on the Herald’s sidebar.Keller never wrote the words “Kennedy said by phone as he drove by a wind farm,” or even anything close. The section you are referring to appears on p. 192. It does indeed include quotes from Robert Kennedy Jr. that were taken from a Globe article. It is clear from the context that Keller did not interview Kennedy. We’ve already established that Keller could have handled citations better than he did, but there was no attempt to deceive the reader.We are going round and round in circles now, and I do not have the time to knock down false accusations. I hope that we can now move on. For those of you who can’t get enough, I highly recommend David Bernstein’s post today on the sourcing (and lack thereof) in “Crashing the Gate.” Enjoy.

  24. Anonymous

    Dan – misinformation? Here is the excerpt from the Herald comparison:The Bluest State, pg.192His nephew, environmental lawyer Robert F. Kennedy Jr., was candid about his own motivation for opposing the project. “I think the first obligation of all environmentalists is to protect their own backyards,” said Kennedy. “I don’t live on the Cape, but I love that water body … and I don’t want to see it devalued.”The Boston Globe, 5/17/03“I think the first obligation of all environmentalists is to protect their own backyards,” Kennedy said by phone, as he drove by a wind farm in California. “I don’t live on the Cape, but I love that water body. I grew up on it, I love it, and I don’t want to see it destroyed. I don’t want to see it devalued.”———-Go ahead and nitpick with Anon. 10:57’s wording. He was suggesting a simple way Keller could have attributed properly. But whatever. This is plagiarism. Along with the 29 or so other examples the Herald cites.

  25. Anonymous

    I checked out Bernstein’s post on Crashing the Gate. As I said in a comment (“appalled”) there, the ONE legitimate example they find is orders of magnitude less serious than what Keller did in at least 30 instances.If that’s the best you and all the other Keller apologists can do, he’s in trouble.

  26. Anonymous

    After reading DK’s assertions on common practice here, David over at Blue Mass Group did his own survey. Please read the whole thing, but here’s an excerpt:Over at Media Nation, a Columbia journalism professor named Paula Span said that identification of sources was “pretty basic stuff.” In response, Dan Kennedy asked, “[h]ow many similar books could we pull off the shelf that would have exactly the same lack of citation?” The answer, at least based on the shelf I looked at, is “precious few.” And so I have to wonder about the basis for Dan’s conclusion that Keller “followed generally accepted practices for a general-interest trade book.” I also have to wonder about the comments of Keller’s editor, Michael Flamini, to the effect that it’s “unreasonable” to expect “trade” books like this to supply notes or a bibliography. In fact, several books on this list are published by Flamini’s employer, St. Martin’s Press — specifically, the ones by Pat Buchanan, Abraham Foxman, and Glenn Kessler. They all have

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