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March 18, 2010

Gerard Posner's plagiarism in "Miami Babylon"

gerald posner miami babylon

When we last left you on the series "Authors Behaving Badly," we noted the factual issues being scrutnized in Charles Pellegrino's "The Last Train from Hiroshima." Now The Miami New Times has raised questions about to Gerald Posner's "Miami Babylon," and he has acknowledged lifting sections of the non-fiction book from another writer.

Posner left his job as investigative reporter for The Daily Beast this year after similar accusations about his reporting there. At the time, he said the problem arose because he had shifted from the slow pace of writing books to the "warp speed" of a web publication. So what's his excuse for the similarities between "Miami Babylon" and Frank Owen's "Clubland"? In an AP report, he basically says "I forgot" -- the fall-back defense for any plagiarist. It may be true in his case, but someone with his experience ought to know better.

I speak occasionally to college journalism students, and this one of the simplest lessons I give them: attribute, attribute, attribute. Years ago, reporters felt sheepish about quoting other sources. If your article wasn't 100 percent new material, it was a bit embarrassing. But in the Internet era, aggregating information and linking to other sources is standard procedure. Sloppy note-taking is no excuse -- at warp speed or book speed.

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 1:05 PM | | Comments (0)

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About the blogger
Dave Rosenthal came to The Baltimore Sun as a business reporter in 1987 and now is the Maryland Editor. He reads a wide range of books (but never as many as he'd like), usually alternating between non-fiction and fiction. Some all-time favorites: A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole; Wind, Sand and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupery; and anything by Calvin Trillin or John McPhee. He belongs to a book club with a Jewish theme.
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