City Pages explained that the article “borrows liberally” from its 2006 cover story. New York City news blog The Awl included a side-by-side comparison of some text from City Pages and Rolling Stone that indicates both stories feature some of the same quotes.
City Pages also recently interviewed G.R. Anderson Jr., who wrote the 2006 City Pages’ article in question and is now a University of Minnesota journalism professor. (See the whole interview here.) Anderson stated that he wants an apology and attribution but “would never want to get anyone fired.” Anderson also noted that as author of the City Pages article, he wants the reporting credit not City Pages (so he would want attribution to read that the quotes were told to him, not City Pages.) He is quoted as saying he has “mixed feelings” about City Pages getting the credit for the Bachmann report.
But, Taibbi and his editor, Eric Bates, both say that the article had included attribution and that the attribution was cut during editing. Bates says he edited out “two of Taibbi’s original notes” of attribution for space and that he would add links to City Pages in the online version of the story, according to the Awl.
Taibbi commented to Yahoo News noting that he attributed information to City Pages in his draft and didn’t “see that those attributions had been removed” post-editing.
He added that he’s “sympathetic” to City Pages in this case and that “They did good work in that piece and deserve to be credited. But you should know also that this isn’t plagiarism–it’s not even an allegation of plagiarism. It’s an attribution issue.”
The explanation of cutting attribution for space reasons has been criticized, especially because the artwork accompanying Taibbi’s article was so big and could have been smaller to accomodate attribution. “Attribution is the last thing an editor should cut!!!!” Slate’s Jack Shafer reportedly told Yahoo News. “How big was the art hole on that piece? Huge, I’ll bet.”
“If an editor deletes attribution, can the writer be called a plagiarist? I don’t think so. Is that what happened? If Taibbi approved the deletions, it’s another question,” Shafer commented.
Plagiarism or Lack of Attribution?
Anderson, the author of the City Pages article, told City Pages he doesn’t view the incident as plagiarism but that as a journalism professor, he would fail and “put…on academic fraud” any student who turned in a “story with that particular lack of sourcing.” Forbes’ Jeff Bercovici likewise commented that he doesn’t review the incident as plagiarism — just “lazy.”
Village Voice also criticized Taibbi’s reporting, calling this incident “indicative of some misleading tactics and reporting laziness, of which Taibbi has been accused before, though it’s frequent criticism for anyone taking on huge subjects like Goldman Sachs, as he did most famously.”
The Awl added that Taibbi’s story is “at best re-reported and at worst poorly sourced” as well as “sloppy.”
iMediaEthics has written to Rolling Stone for comment and will update with any response.