POLITICO’s national political reporter Kendra Marr resigned after editors learned that she had plagiarized, POLITICO revealed in an Oct. 13 post.
According to POLITICO’s Editors’ Note announcement (see here), the news site found out about the plagiarism after a New York Times writer complained that Marr plagiarized her Times article on “transportation policy.” According to an Oct. 14 New York Times blog post, its freelance writer Susan Stellin is the person who contacted POLITICO.
Following that complaint, POLITICO editors reviewed the story in question and found “troubling enough” elements to Marr’s reporting, the editor’s note explains.
According to POLITICO, its review didn’t find any fabrication but did find that Marr didn’t properly attribute work. As POLITICO explained, “Some of these examples involved specific turns of phrase or passages that bore close resemblance to work published elsewhere. Others involved similarities in the way stories were organized to present their findings.”
Regret the Error’s Craig Silverman commented that it’s “notable” POLITICO’s editor’s note “never uses the word plagiarism, even though it’s explicitly about a case of serial plagiarism.”
POLITICO’s note went on to explain that it “added clarifications on all pieces in which we have discovered problems with improper borrowing and inadequate attribution, and will do so on any others that we discover.” While StinkyJournalism likes POLITICO’s transparency in proactively revealing the plagiarism issue, we would prefer to see the editor’s note at the top of the stories in question (instead of at the bottom, where they currently are) and we would like to see more links back to source work.
In the Oct. 11 story that prompted Stellin’s inquiry to POLITICO, the site has added an editor’s note explaining in part that “An earlier version of this story drew extensively on reporting from The New York Times without proper attribution.” That editor’s note links back to the length note explaining the charges against Marr and her resignation.
The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple criticized POLITICO for not letting readers see what Marr did. Because the editor’s note was appended to an updated story, “readers cannot go to the site and judge for themselves how egregious or how mild the borrowing was.”
In a follow-up post, Wemple tracked down one of Marr’s articles to Lexis Nexis to compare. Wemple described the two articles as very similar and essentially a “re-write.” He wrote:
“The similarities between the two stories in terms of facts and figures and structure are strong. The Times scooped Politico here, and weeks later, Politico appears to be trying to hide that fact from its readers. Throughout most of her story, Marr appears to be executing an artful re-write of the Times piece.”
Wemple wrote Oct. 17 that the Washington Post reviewed Marr’s articles for the newspaper and “haven’t found anything of concern.”
Poynter’s Julie Moos noted that Marr is a graduate of Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism. We’ve written about the school’s Innocence Project, which looked into convictions, and former professor David Protess as both Protess and the project’s methods have been challenged and questioned.
According to Moos, Marr misrepresented herself five years ago as a Medill student. While trying to find a source, Marr reportedly posed as a census worker. She is quoted as telling the Chicago Tribune earlier this year that she “regrets” the decision, according to Poynter’s Moos. “It wasn’t my idea, and as a professional journalist, I haven’t misrepresented myself since, nor do I intend to ever again,” Marr is quoted as telling the Chicago Tribune.