Wikinvest Wire

Plagiarism at the New York Times?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Teri Buhl of Hearst CT News files this report about New York Times reporter Zach Kouwe lifting material from both The Wall Street Journal and The Mortgage Lender Implode-O-Meter in yet one more interesting nexus of old and new journalism.

The business media was shocked to see the New York Times issue a quasi apology to the Wall Street Journal yesterday over one of its Dealbook reporters, Zach Kouwe, copying story lines and not sourcing original reporting to other news publications. There was also mention that ‘other publications’ had fallen victim to story lifts by Kouwe and a note that the New York Times was investigating the situation. The New York Observer printed a copy of the letter from the WSJ editors to the NYT editors detailing the specific infractions.

But for some who had closely followed stories reported by Kouwe at the NYT’s online business blog, Dealbook, this was not so much of a shock. Examples of his copying other journalists’ reporting and sourcing it as his own went back to 2008 – a few month after he left the New York Post and started with NYT’s Dealbook.

On Dec. 26, 2008, an online publication covering the housing market, Mortgage Implode-O-Meter, published an exclusive news report that a group of financial services firms, led by Steven Mnuchin of Dune Capital, would be buying failed IndyMac Bank from the FDIC. IndyMac was one of the first large thrift banks to be seized by the FDIC at the start of the financial crisis.

A day later, Kouwe reported for the NYT’s Dealbook that Dune Capital was expected to buy IndyMac and added two other names of buyers, JC Flowers and John Paulson, to the story. Kouwe’s report did not credit Mortgage Implode-O-Meter for first breaking the fact that 1) a private equity group was buying IndyMac 2) Dune Capital was involved.

Wire services picked up the NYT’s story and the rest of the business press ended up sourcing Kouwe for breaking the news on the sale of IndyMac to a private equity group.
In probably the most surprising part of this story, Kouwe commented, "I don’t know what to tell you. Things move so quickly on the Web that citing who had it first is something that is likely going away, especially in the age of blogs."

In what is not so surprising, according to Buhl, Kouwe has been suspended, his fate apparently to be decided later today by NY Times editors.

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