Journalism's "Hamster Wheel" : Do Increasing Productivity Demands Lead to Plagiarism?

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Dean Starkman writes in "As the Hamster Wheel Turns..." (Columbia Journalism Review) that a "more, faster" news culture has negative trade offs. (Credit: Coturnix, A Blog Around The Clock)

Though speed and pressure are on the list of classic plagiarism excuses, holding writers to a breakneck pace can and does imperil journalistic ethics.

iMediaEthics recently covered Zachery Kouwe’s resignation from the New York Times over plagiarism. Kouwe told the New York Post a rapid writing schedule played into his ethical breach.

Dean Starkman writes in the Columbia Journalism Review Thursday (“As the Hamster Wheel Turns..”) that a “more, faster” news culture has long served the public well, we also know there are trade offs. He calls for greater discussion on the issue.

iMediaEthics has written about speed vs. quality before, as has the CJR. In this new update, Starkman responds to a Gawker story on accelerating productivity goals at the Associated Press.

Starkman writes, though the AP “was never anybody’s idea of a spa,” it is clear that demands on journalists to produce news quickly are increasing, even as the number of working journalists employed to produce this news is shrinking. “We know that news-productivity demands are increasing,” Starkman writes.

We also know that there are limits. We thirdly know there are trade-offs: Quantity up, quality down. I’ve said it before: you can practically graph it. The do-more-with-less thing-nobody believes it.

We need more reporting on this issue; we can’t just leave it to Gawker.

While demands for speed might not excuse Kouwe–or Gerald Posner who was also recently found to be plagiarizing at the Daily Beast–they still should raise hackles about whether these production environments are creating better journalism, or as Starkman suggests, preventing important news from getting out “because it doesn’t pass the time/productivity stress test.

He writes, “There’s a danger here, and it’s not just for journalists.”

Check out his full post here.

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Journalism’s “Hamster Wheel”: Do Increasing Productivity Demands Prompt Plagiarism?

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