Dowd was just talking with a friend

I don’t think New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd committed a hanging offense. But I continue to be troubled by her explanation of how she came to lift a paragraph from Josh Marshall’s megablog, Talking Points Memo.

OK, so Dowd was “talking” in a “spontaneous” manner with a friend, as she put it to the Huffington Post. Fine. I had decided to assume for the purpose of moving on that by “talking” she meant “e-mailing.” It would be completely believable if she had copied and pasted from a friend’s e-mail who had volunteered to help her write her column. Lame, but believable.

And yet here is what she told a blog called the Nytpicker, via e-mail:

no, we were going back and forth discussing the topic of the column and he made this point and i thought it was a good one and wanted to weave it in;
i just didn’t realize it was josh marshall’s point, and we’ve now given him credit
my friend didn’t want to be quoted; but of course i would have been happy to give credit to another writer, as i often do

I don’t see how you can possibly construe this as an e-mail exchange, especially when, as you will see, the Nytpicker had contacted her a second time trying to clarify exactly how Dowd had managed to reproduce Marshall’s rather lengthy graf almost word for word. Hey, she was just talking with a friend. Right.

(Via an e-mail to Media Nation citing National Review’s Media Blog, which in turn got it from DailyKos.)


Dowd’s modified limited hangout

Jack Shafer points out in Slate that New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd deserves credit for not going into hiding, not whining and not claiming that what she did wasn’t plagiarism. I’ll give her that.

In an e-mail to Media Nation, Shafer also fingered an attribution I’d messed up in my Guardian column, which has now been corrected. I’d misattributed a Dowd e-mail to the wrong source. Thank you, Jack.

Maureen Dowd’s real sin

It’s not plagiarism, assuming Sunday’s column was an isolated incident. Rather, it’s phoning in a lazy, solipsistic column that is sometimes entertaining but rarely digs deeper than the conventional wisdom of the day.

Or so I argue in the Guardian.

The blogosphere versus Maureen Dowd

Simon Owens has the latest on the Maureen Dowd plagiarism story, with quotes from Dowd and a no-comment from Josh Marshall.

The New York Times has already updated Dowd’s column to credit Marshall, but there’s no acknowledgment that there was a problem in the first place.

OK, this is premature, but here is Dowd friend Howell Raines’ 1998 takedown of the Boston Globe, which he chastises for failing to fire star columnist Mike Barnicle after he’d been caught plagiarizing one-liners from a book by George Carlin.

I would imagine Times editors are going to have to do something even if Dowd’s explanation pans out. I’d also guess that the next 24 hours will be key. Right now, we can assume that dozens (hundreds?) of bloggers are scouring every column she’s ever written.

If she can survive that, then she’ll get through this. If not, then all bets are off.

Slime in historical context

Josh Marshall writes: “I don’t think there’s any question that McCain’s is the dirtiest and most dishonest campaign, certainly in the last 35 years and possibly going much further back into the early 20th century.”

By invoking the 35-year rule, Marshall is leaving open the possibility that Richard Nixon’s re-election effort in 1972 was worse. I’d agree with that. Worse than anything since? Yes, I think so. The worst I can remember George W. Bush doing against Al Gore was taking credit for a children’s health measure in Texas that had passed over his veto. George H.W. Bush ran some notably dirty campaigns in 1988 and ’92, but I think McCain has set a new standard.

Last night Mrs. Media Nation and Media Nation Jr. came back from a trip to the in-laws and reported that several members of the family had asserted that Barack Obama is “a terrorist.” Not even that he “pals around with terrorists.”

You can argue all day that neither John McCain nor Sarah Palin has said anything quite that breathtakingly brash. But they set it in motion, and let pre-existings fears about a black man with a Muslim-sounding name do the rest.

Wrong on the National Press Club

Josh Marshall passes along a Daily Kos item criticizing the National Press Club for providing a platform to an Obama critic from the lunatic fringe. The Kos piece — by Markos himself — urges readers to sign a petition asking the press club to disinvite the wingnut in question, someone named Larry Sinclair.

In fact, the National Press Club is merely renting space to a group called Veritas Federal Media, which is sponsoring the news conference. Click here and scroll down to June 18. You’ll see this: “This event is not affiliated with the National Press Club or the Eric Friedheim Library.” (The library is part of the press club.)

That said, the press club could certainly do a better job on its home page, where you’ll find a plug that looks very much like an official notice saying: “Larry reveals the truth about Democratic Presidential Candidate Barack Obama.”

Josh Marshall 101

Noam Cohen profiles Josh Marshall in the New York Times following Marshall’s winning a Polk Award for his coverage of the U.S. attorneys scandal. Cohen kindly quotes me at some length.

As I noted last week in a blog post for my students, Marshall’s Talking Points Memo and related sites have pioneered a new kind of investigative reporting that combines the journalistic expertise of Marshall and his crew with the decentralized knowledge of their readers.

As citizen-journalism pioneer Dan Gillmor has memorably put it, “my readers know more than I do.” Marshall has figured out how to tap into that knowledge and make sense of it.