Earlier this month, Utah newspaper the Deseret News apologized for a column that failed to “properly attribute” a New York Times article, as iMediaEthics wrote at the time.
While the column has since been unpublished, iMediaEthics’ side-by-side comparison of the cached column with the Times‘ article showed that the Deseret News column, by Richard Eyre, was heavily based on the Times’ report.
Eyre has responded to iMediaEthics’ query, explaining what went wrong with his column. He told us that ultimately he was just working too fast and “forgot” to attribute information.
“In a nutshell, what happened was that we had another column ready to submit but as our deadline approached my brother emailed me the Adam Grant piece [from the New York Times] and I was so impressed with it that I made a spur of the moment decision to share it with our readers, to recognize and applaud it and Mr. Grant, and to agree with it,” Eyre said. “I wrote the first and last paragraphs, acknowledging Grant and quoting him, then cut and pasted some of his best thoughts into the middle and then hurriedly and stupidly forgot to go back and put quotation marks around those middle paragraphs.”
As iMediaEthics noted in our original story on this case, Eyre’s column didn’t include anything original and was either a copy and paste, a re-write or a reference to Grant’s work. We checked with Eyre to see if this was the intention, which he confirmed.
“The column was intended to be largely excerpts from Grant’s Times article and to thank him and agree with him,” Eyre said.
Despite the incident, Eyre and his wife, with whom he shares a byline in his column are still writing for the Deseret News. Moving forward, Eyre told iMediaEthics he will just be more careful:
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“What I will change in future is to never be either so hurried or so careless.”
Eyre also sent iMediaEthics the apology he sent to the New York Times and the author of the Times‘ article, Grant. The apology reads:
“Dear Mr Grant, and to the appropriate persons at the New York Times:
“Anyone familiar the twice-weekly columns my wife and I write the Deseret News knows that we regularly highlight insightful coverage from major media on topics relating to the family. On July 31, our column “Why men need women,” highlighted and extensively quoted your excellent New York Times article. While we began and ended the column by crediting you, Mr. Grant, in my haste to file the story, I neglected in the middle part of the column to provide the full and proper attribution and quotation marks as we normally do.
“I sincerely apologize to you Mr. Grant, and to The New York Times and to the Deseret News for this very serious error. I regret any confusion and difficulties it caused.”
Grant confirmed to iMediaEthics that he “did receive the apology.” We also asked for further comment about the incident and if he would categorize it as a simple attribution failure versus plagiarism. Grant said: “Since I’m not familiar with the circumstances that led to the error, I’m not in a position to comment.”