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

Last words on the Globe’s lifted editorial

Just to bring this full circle, I want to point out that we talked about the Boston Globe’s lifted editorial on “Beat the Press” last Friday. You can watch the segment here.

We identified Globe columnist Joan Vennochi as the person responsible, which made us the first news organization to confirm that independently. Others cited an email Boston Herald columnist Howie Carr had sent to his followers, news that never found its way into the Herald itself.

On Monday, old friend Mark Leccese, an Emerson College journalism professor, took “Beat the Press” to task in his blog, writing that we were too easy on what he believes was a clear case of plagiarism. And he says the punishment should have been more severe than the two-week suspension Vennochi (whom he does not name) received.

It’s a good, smart post, though I still believe what Vennochi did amounted to sloppiness rather than out-and-out plagiarism.

Finally, welcome back, Joan. Her excellent political column was back in the Globe on Sunday following a two-week suspension. You can read that here.

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  1. I agree with you, Dan. I really think this was sloppiness as opposed to intentional plagiarism. Joan is a fine columnist and has had an outstanding career. I credit Beat the Press for its discussion of the event but would appreciate even more an exploration of what’s going on at the Globe with shortage of writers, bringing back former employees to “help out” in editorial writing and, in a larger sense, the evolution of the paper’s editorial philosophy over recent years.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Marjorie: Though I share your high regard for Joan, I have to say I don’t see any problem in asking columnists to help out with writing editorials.

      • Nor do I. After all, editorialists also write signed op eds, and there is a flow back and forth. I’ve also heard that due to strained resources, former Globe writers have been called back to do editorials. As I said, I’m more interested in how the editorial process and philosophy have evolved over recent years. By the way, I’m off to the Association of Opinion Journalists meeting in Orlando where these situations are of more than passing interest.

  2. Mike Benedict

    Why should “deadline pressures” be an out for lifting materials (or lifting the structure)? What other profession gets to cheat, then blame it on a deadline and still get the blessing of their peers?

  3. Laurence Glavin

    Howie Carr’s “followers”? Is he cult leader? I know Sun Myung Moon is dead; is this like Al Quaeda, once the number-two man is killed, the next-in-line takes his place, and Howie is it? In other words, was Howie’s message posted openly on his personal web site or WRKO’s?

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Laurence: Come on. If you sign up for someone’s email list or subscribe to his Twitter feed, you’re a follower of his.

  4. Bill Schweber

    The Beat the Press consensus, as I heard it (and read in the transcript) was that, hey, Joan is really a good person, we love her work, and she’s done so very much good writing over the years–so it’s all OK, what she did here is really nothing to chastise her about, we’ll just move on to something else of interest.

    Sorry, I don’t buy that rationale at all; and to me it sounds like you’re circling the wagons to protect a local colleague.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Bill: I don’t think any of us said she didn’t deserve her two-week suspension.

      • Bill Schweber

        Seems to be that keeping her name secret is somewhat hypocritical, considering how the Globe often, sanctimoniously, demands transparency and accountability from other public and private organizations.
        Or is it like the “double secret probation” that Dean Wormer imposed on Delta House in Animal House? 😉

  5. Bob Gardner

    @Dan, I have to agree with Bill about circling the wagons. Marjorie Egan , with her “blood in the water” comment came pretty close to saying that she was being punished too severely. And only one panelist, Callie Crossley, properly described the editorial as plagiarism. And as I pointed out on the BTP websight, all the panelists made up an excuse for Vennochi that she didn’t didn’t even make for herself.
    I’m less concerned with the precise punishment imposed than I am with the pattern of treating well-known Boston media figures with a deference that often rises to denial. I’m thinking of the stringer who a few years ago who was pilloried on BTP for the opinions posted on his web page. More recently Kevin Cullen was assigned by the Globe to write straight news on the BC-IRA case.
    Cullen had already made his strong opinions about that case clear many times, including in an interview with Emily Rooney herself. But nobody at BTP seemed to notice.
    It just seems like there are two standards, one for well-known, well-connected local journalists, and another for everyone else.

    • Dan Kennedy

      “All the panelists made up an excuse for Vennochi that she didn’t didn’t even make for herself.”

      @Bob: What are you talking about? Vennochi hasn’t said anything.

  6. Bob Gardner

    All the panelists decided that Vennochi wrote the plagiarized piece under extreme deadline pressure. There is no indication from Vennochi or anyone at the Globe that deadline pressure played any role at all in the writing of this piece.

    • Mike Benedict

      Agreed on the deadline pressure fallacy. Isn’t cheating cheating? Students who turn in someone else’s work don’t get let off the hook because of “deadline pressure.” No way someone who is paid to write for a living should be let off the hook by her peers for such a lame reason.

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