Gawker suspended writer Jay Hathaway for a week after a reader pointed out “several similarities” in his June 20 article to a Miami New Times article.
Hathaway’s article was titled, “Florida ‘Foot Goddess’ Arrested Over Underage Group Sex Video.” The article has more than 130,000 views and reported on the arrest of three people in Miami “accused of orchestrating a sex party with three young girls (ages 12, 13 and 14).”
The article now carries an editor’s note from editor-in-chief Max Read saying that a comparison of Hathaway’s post with the New Times‘ June 20 article found “several similar phrasings, one outright identical phrase, and a close structural similarity.”
“The New Times article was not linked to or cited in any way,” Read’s editor’s note stated.
For example, see below a side-by-side comparison:
The New Times:
“On her Twitter feed, Byndloss posts even more explicit photos and has apparently moved on to performing in hard-core pornography, including bondage work. On the site, she describes herself as “Miami’s po$hprincess aquarius goddess up-cumming porn diva born and raised in miami dade baby!”
“Byndloss now faces charges of three counts of lewd and lascivious battery on a minor and promoting sexual performance of a child.”
“She saves her more explicit photos for her Twitter account, where she describes herself as “Miami’s po$hprincess aquarius goddess up-cumming porn diva born and raised in miami dade baby!”
“Byndloss has been charged with three counts of lewd and lascivious battery on a minor and promoting sexual performance of a child.”
While Hathaway said the similarities were unintentional, which Read said he accepted, Read called the issues “serious errors” and apologized to the New Times.
Read’s editor’s note said in part:
“The author of the Gawker post, Jay Hathaway, says he read the New Times article before writing his, and “parts of it probably got stuck in my head while I was posting. I didn’t intend to duplicate any of their article, and I definitely meant to link the source prominently.”
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“I believe Jay, but both the inadvertent duplication and the lack of citation are serious errors. Since even the appearance of wrongdoing does damage to our credibility and integrity, I’m suspending Jay for a week. Both he and I offer our sincerest apologies to Munzenrieder and the New Times.”
In a comment on the article, Read wrote to readers that “I can assure you that Jay feels incredibly sorry and embarrassed.”
Read noted that he plans to review Hathaway’s work. He wrote, “I’m going to be reviewing Jay’s stuff both specifically and as part of a general review of our aggregation practices.”
Read told Poynter that “I want to emphasize this is the first time he’s ever been accused of plagiarism, and I have faith that he will never duplicate or fail to cite ever again.”
Poynter also published a memo from Read to staff about the incident in which Read addressed how Gawker works as “frank aggregators.”
“We are, and always have been, frank aggregators–by which I mean we are honest about our aggregation. This is of the utmost importance. We are not in the business of hiding links or sources; we are generous with our credits and citations; and we do not present others’ writing as our own. This is a key component of what Hamilton calls ‘how to blog without being a huge prick.’ Our credibility and integrity—our ability to write honestly and critically about other outlets and institutions—is on the line.”
The Miami New Times wrote about Gawker’s apology and editor’s note June 24. “The gossip/news (or is it news/gossip?) website this morning admitted inadvertently stealing copy from Miami New Times. We didn’t bring it to their attention,” the New Times wrote. The New Times called Read “a stand-up guy” in handling this incident.
iMediaEthics asked the New Times’ writer for comment. He pointed us to his tweet about the incident.
Those kind of things are regrettable, but impressed with Gawker for handling it so openly.
— Kyle Munzenrieder (@Munzenrieder) June 24, 2014
iMediaEthics has reached out to Gawker for comment about the incident.