Some quick hits from my inbox and the morning papers.
- Keller’s non-sourcing trashed. Jessica Heslam at the Herald noticed the same thing I did about Jon Keller’s “The Bluest State” — there’s an awful lot of anonymous and unattributed material in there. As it turns out, the reason is that Keller repeatedly lifted material from published newspaper articles (some of which contained anonymous quotes) — without indicating that he was doing so. Major no-no.
WBZ-TV political analyst Jon Keller’s highly touted new book, “The Bluest State,” is riddled with almost three dozen instances of direct quotes and other material lifted from numerous newspaper articles without any attribution, a Herald review has found.
In what four experts called a serious breach of journalistic ethics, Keller lifted quotes and other material that have appeared in numerous newspapers, including The Boston Globe, the Herald, The Washington Post and Worcester Telegram & Gazette, as well as from Reuters wire service stories.
“There’s no question in my mind that this is highly unethical, totally unprofessional and lazy besides,” said Sam Freedman, a professor at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, who reviewed a half-dozen examples from Keller’s book. “It’s clear to me that what the author did was go to previously published newspaper articles and lift out quotes from them,” Freedman said. “There’s nothing wrong with doing that if you indicate to the reader that those quotes came from another source.”
Lee Wilkins, a Missouri School of Journalism professor and the editor of the Journal of Mass Media Ethics, who also reviewed examples from the book, said, “The general rule in journalism is you cite the source of your information. Secondly, the norm in journalism is we don’t steal. I would regard this as a violation of academic (honesty).”
In one example from Keller’s book, he took five direct quotes from neighbors, a parent, a school board member and city councilor from four Globe articles written in 1988, 1989 and 1990 on the controversy surrounding the Commonwealth Day School on Brattle Street in Cambridge. Those quotes appear exactly the same on the pages of “The Bluest State” … In some instances, multiple quotes are lifted from a single article.
Keller’s 250-page text on Bay State politics has an index, and the book does credit some of the material he culled from the Globe and Herald.
But Keller’s book does not have any footnotes, chapter notes or a bibliography. According to Freedman, that leads the “reader to think, ‘Gee, this enterprising author did all these interviews. How impressive. How hard-working,’ and it’s the opposite. All he did was take quotes that other journalists had gotten and then passed them off as if he was the person who had gotten the quotes.
“Any working journalist,” Freedman added, “would know these basic rules.” … Robert Harris, an author and expert on proper use of sources said, “If the book is intended to be taken seriously, it should attribute its sources.”
I’m finding that the question whether bloggers are journalists is getting funnier every day — see also the related item below about the Lowell Sun’s editor. Maybe someone should ask NECN head Phil Balboni about this. Is anyone pure enough to cover debates at NECN these days?
- Obama takes a cheap shot. Just in from Obama central:
I’m leaving the Tonight Show studio and I wanted to share something.
Jay Leno just asked if it bothers me that some of the Washington pundits are declaring Hillary Clinton the winner of this election before a single vote has been cast.
I’ll tell you what I told him: Hillary is not the first politician in Washington to declare “Mission Accomplished” a little too soon.
What a load. First, of course Hillary is trying to project an air of inevitability about her campaign — but she has never publicly declared the campaign as good as over. Far from it. The fact that some pundits have done so is more a reflection of the fact that neither Obama nor anyone else seems to be able to get close to her in the polls — and whose fault is that? Second, tying Hillary’s campaign to W’s aircraft carrier moment IMHO trivializes the issue of the Iraq war. If Obama wants to make his early opposition to the war a big selling point for his campaign, he might want to treat it as something other than a quickie on Jay Leno.
- Credit where credit is due. Or not. Casey Ross at the Herald points out that UMass-Dartmouth prof Clyde Barrow’s casino plan “bears a striking resemblance” to that just filed by Governor Patrick. But alert readers will recall that the “striking resemblance” was detailed weeks ago by alert reporters Paul McMorrow and Julia Reischel at the Weekly Dig, as we discussed at BMG at the time. And Ryan had picked up on the similarity even before the Dig story came out.
The bloggers and alt-newsies were way out in front of the MSM on this one. But never mind. We’re not journalists, after all.
- Is Lowell Sun editor Jim Campanini a journalist? The Globe informs us that Campanini, after arranging a highly questionable special section in the Sun to “honor” Marty Meehan’s service in Congress, has now bought the guy’s house.
According to records filed with the Middlesex North County Registry of Deeds, Campanini purchased Meehan’s 3,000-square-foot house for $585,000. The price for the stone Colonial-style house was below the $598,400 value assessed by the city of Lowell. The real-estate website Zillow, which uses an algorithm to compare a property to similar ones nearby, estimates its value at $618,895. The property, which Meehan purchased for $340,000 in 1999 with his wife, Ellen T. Murphy, was not listed in the Multiple Listing Service, according to MLS spokeswoman Melissa Lindberg, suggesting that the property was not made widely available for bid.
Last December, the Sun published a section to celebrate Meehan’s 50th birthday, as he “reflects on his life, local roots, and the commitment to public service,” Sun publisher Mark O’Neil wrote in a letter to prospective advertisers. O’Neil’s letter also announced that a share of revenues from sales of ads in the section would go to the Marty Meehan Educational Foundation and identified a staff member in Meehan’s Lowell office as a contact.
Here’s my favorite part:
“It will be interesting to see if he keeps his Belvidere home in Lowell,” wrote Campanini in a March column, assessing Meehan’s long-term plans. “Here’s a prediction: He won’t.”
Is it journalism if you make a prediction that you yourself then cause to come true?