Brown and his new Fox friends fall for a sprinkle of satire

Scott Brown is off to a fine start at his new gig with “Fox and Friends.” It’s not even New Year’s, and the former Massachusetts senator (or whoever is handling his Twitter account) is tweeting misinformation like an old hand. This went out earlier today:

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Hmmm … sometimes you can just tell. So I started Googling around. Sure enough, the sprinkles story has been a big hit on right-wing websites. But it only took a minute or so to trace it back to the likely source — a post at the Free Republic that is labeled “Semi-News/Semi-Satire.”

The post quotes an “FDA nutrition expert” named “Harley Sain” (as in Hardly Sane, I imagine) as saying that sprinkles will be banned from donuts and ice cream cones. Sain adds:

If it were totally up to me, we’d be banning the donuts and ice cream, too. No one needs to eat these to survive. The world would be healthier without them. Removing them from the diet is more of a long term goal. We need to move in increments that won’t stir up too much opposition. As people gradually become more accustomed to greater government control over what they are allowed eat we can take larger strides toward a perfectly calibrated diet for all.

Ho ho! I’m doubled over. OK, maybe Brown and his new friends deserve at least a little bit of a pass for failing to recognize as humor something that, you know, isn’t funny. And just remember that it could be worse: he could be denouncing Sprinklegate from the floor of the U.S. Senate.

Poynter weighs in on the Globe’s lifted editorial

Craig Silverman of Poynter Online weighs in with a smart take on the Boston Globe’s decision not to release the name of the staff member who wrote an unsigned editorial that was lifted almost word for word from WBUR.org.

The original piece, which criticized Vice President Joe Biden’s “put y’all back in chains” comment, was written by Republican political consultant and WBUR contributor Todd Domke. The Globe editorial was the subject of a recent “editor’s note” (which you’ll find at the bottom) in which the paper expressed its “regrets.”

As I wrote on Aug. 24, the editor’s note raised as many questions as it answered, since it did not reveal the identity of the person who wrote it or whether he or she had been disciplined.

Last week, as you may have heard, Boston Herald columnist and WRKO Radio (AM 680) talk-show host Howie Carr sent a dispatch to subscribers to his email list claiming he had learned the culprit was Globe columnist Joan Vennochi, and that she had been suspended for two weeks. The email ended up being posted to the Free Republic, a right-wing website.

Oddly, though, that information has not appeared in the Herald, which instead ran a story on the Globe’s decision not to name names. The Herald also criticized Emerson College journalism professor Mark Leccese for not addressing the issue in the unpaid blog that he writes for the Globe’s Boston.com site.

Also writing about this have been Jim Romenesko and iMediaEthics.

Silverman’s piece is the fullest treatment so far. He quotes editorial-page editor Peter Canellos as saying:

Our policy is not to discuss internal disciplinary actions. But our editor’s note should speak for itself. There were similarities in structure and phrasing that shouldn’t have been used without attribution. We take these matters very seriously.

Silverman also expresses frustration at the Globe’s response, writing that “the paper won’t name the writer, won’t detail any related discipline, won’t say if they’re reviewing previous work, and won’t call it plagiarism.”

It strikes me that this would have been a one-day story if the Globe had simply announced who did it, whether that person had been disciplined and, if so, what the punishment was. The borrowing from Domke’s piece looks to me more like extreme sloppiness than classic plagiarism.

And yes, I understand that such matters are confidential at most companies. But if this had been a signed column rather than an anonymous editorial, naming the person would have been unavoidable. I don’t see why it should be handled differently simply because the piece did not carry a byline.