WaPo's Elizabeth Flock Resigns, Editor's Note Later Published Suggests Plagiarism in Story - iMediaEthics

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(Credit: Washington Post, screenshot, highlight added)

The Washington Post’s Elizabeth Flock resigned April 13, Poynter’s Andrew Beaujon reported.   Beaujon noted that Flock said she left to pursue another type of journalism job and denied that she was “pressured to resign” or “going to be fired..”

However, her April 13 blog post now carries an editor’s note suggesting plagiarism or lack of attribution, Beaujon reported.  The editor’s note, posted here on her article “Report: NASA’s Viking robots may have found life on Mars in 1976,” reads:

“EDITORS’ NOTE: An earlier version of this report made inappropriate, extensive use of an original report by Discovery News and also failed to credit that news organization as the primary source for the blog post. This was a significant ethical lapse and not in keeping with our journalistic standards. We apologize to Discovery News.”

This is the Discovery News article in question.

Flock told iMediaEthics that she “forgot to both credit and link” to Discovery News, but says that it wasn’t intentional.  She wrote in an e-mail to iMediaEthics:

“It was an honest mistake and am saddened to see it portrayed otherwise.”

Flock said in an e-mail to iMediaEthics that in her original post she had linked to two other studies besides Discovery.  She added that

“I have worked as an aggregation blogger for almost a year now at the Post, and I have always properly attributed my sources in my reports.  I have gone over what happened Friday many, many times, and I am still not certain how I left out the Discovery attribution, except that I was working too fast.  It was an important lesson to learn. “

She noted that she “resigned before the editor’s note, and there was absolutely no discussion concerning any action because of the editor’s note.”

Agence France Presse reported similar comments from Flock denying being “pressured to quit” and noted that Washington Post spokesperson Kris Coratti said “we do not comment on personnel issues.’

Jim Romenesko pointed out that the Tumblr blog DC Porcupine pulled from the cache of Flock’s original post and spotted “extremely similar” writing.  DC Porcupine identifies itself as “Washington media criticism.”

Discovery News’ managing editor Amanda Onion told iMediaEthics that Discovery News reporter Irene Klotz “spotted the Washington Post blog and contacted the site’s editors” about the lack of credit for Discovery News in the article.  Onion told us that Discovery News is satisfied with the Washington Post’s response and that the Post’s “editors handled the unfair use swiftly and fairly.”

She added: “We appreciated their open, honest response to the matter” and that Discovery News wasn’t involved in the Post’s editor’s note.

Previous Case

This is “the second time in four months” an editor’s note has been added to her work, Beaujon added. Last December, Flock’s post “Mitt Romney is using a KKK slogan in his speeches” wrongly claimed that Romney was using a “former KKK slogan.”

The editor’s note added to her Dec. 14 post reads:

“Editors’ note: This posting contains multiple, serious factual errors that undermine its premise. Mitt Romney is not using ‘Keep America American,’ which was once a KKK slogan, as a catchphrase in stump speeches, as the posting and headline stated. In a YouTube video that the posting said showed Romney using the phrase, Romney actually used a different phrase, ‘Keep America America.’ Further, the video that the blog posting labelled ‘Mitt Romney 2012 Campaign Ad’ is not actually a Romney campaign ad. The video itself states ‘Mitt Romney does not actually support this ad.’ The posting cited accounts of Romney saying ‘keep America American’ at an appearance last week. Independent video from the event shows him saying ‘Keep America America.’ The Post should have contacted the Romney campaign for comment before publication. Finally, we apologize that the posting began by saying ‘[s]omeone didn’t do his research’ when, in fact, we had not done ours.”

As we wrote at the time, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews also apologized for MSNBC’s “appalling lack of judgment” in airing the KKK claims.  Matthews also said the claims were “irresponsible and incendiary.”


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WaPo’s Elizabeth Flock Resigns, Editor’s Note Later Published Suggests Plagiarism in Story

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