Nation & World

Former New York Times editor cites footnotes as issue in plagiarism charges

'I was up all night'

Reuters

Then-Executive Editor Jill Abramson (far right) is with New York Times publisher at the time, Arthur Sulzberger Jr. (center), who’s holding up four fingers to signify the four Pulitzer Prizes the newspaper won in 2013.
Reuters Then-Executive Editor Jill Abramson (far right) is with New York Times publisher at the time, Arthur Sulzberger Jr. (center), who’s holding up four fingers to signify the four Pulitzer Prizes the newspaper won in 2013.

Former New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson responded Thursday to allegations that she plagiarized portions of her new book, “Merchants of Truth: The Business of News and the Fight for Facts,” telling the Washington Post, “I was up all night going through my book because I take these claims of plagiarism so seriously.”

In a statement, Abramson defended the book’s extensive citations but vowed to correct errors in attribution.

“In writing ‘Merchants of Truth,’ I tried above all to accurately and properly give attribution to the many hundreds of sources that were part of my research,” she said.

“My book has 70 pages of footnotes, and nearly 100 source citations in the Vice chapters alone, including the New Yorker, the Columbia Journalism Review, the Ryerson Review of Journalism and a masters’ thesis, the sources from which Mr. Moynihan says I plagiarized.

“The notes don’t match up with the right pages in a few cases and this was unintentional and will be promptly corrected. The language is too close in some cases and should have been cited as quotations in the text. This, too, will be fixed”

The book is more than 500 pages, she said.

“All of the ideas in the book are original, all the opinions are mine. The passages in question involve facts that should have been perfectly cited in my footnotes and weren’t,” Abramson said.

Abramson was confronted about the allegations — outlined in a Twitter thread by Vice News’ Michael Moynihan — during a Wednesday appearance on Fox News. When asked by anchor Martha MacCallum if she had any comment on numerous similarities detailed by Moynihan, Abramson replied, “I really don’t.”

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Moynihan’s tweets went viral Wednesday and brought a lot of attention to Abramson’s book. The thread, which focuses on three chapters Abramson wrote on the media company Vice, highlights paragraphs containing language that appears to be lifted from material published in Time Out, the New Yorker and the Columbia Journalism Review.

“All I can tell you is I certainly didn’t plagiarize in my book, and there’s 70 pages of footnotes showing where I got the information,” Abramson told MacCallum.

Moynihan wrote in the thread that there are “plenty more” examples of “enormous factual errors, other cribbed passages, single or unsourced claims.”

One of the reporters mentioned in Moynihan’s thread, Jake Malooley, responded forcefully on Twitter: “In a pretty brazen violation of journalism 101 ethics, Jill Abramson cribbed a passage from an article I wrote in 2010 and passed it off as her own in her new book, ‘Merchants of Truth.’”

When asked by MacCallum if there could’ve been an attribution or footnote issue in the book, the former Times editor replied, “No, I don’t think this is an issue at all.”

“Many people from Vice have been taking issue with the book,” she said. “I think they don’t like the portrayal of Vice, although I think it’s a very balanced portrait and I have a lot of praise for some of their journalists and some of their stories. I like their fresh approach to news.”

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