Last week, the Erik Wemple blog had a couple of posts on evidence that Washington Times and United Press International columnist Arnaud de Borchgrave had borrowed from stories previously published on the Internet. Those pieces were bundled into a news story that ran in the Style section of Tuesday’s print edition of The Post.
The Washington Post’s ombudsman passed along the following complaint from a reader* regarding that story:
Front page of the style section. About an old man named de Borchgrave. Calls him “a cool-named foreign correspondent.” Says over the past week de Borchgrave “has been battling to defend his journalism” but forgets to tell us battling whom, doesn’t want us to know who is doing these studies of de Borchgrave’s writings and why. Someone is putting a whole lot of effort into going after an 85 year old. My mom and dad died in the mid-80s, and boy it takes one hell of a son of a [gun] to decide to go after someone in that age group. They generally are getting a little forgetful, not senile, but not the way they were in their mature years. This is life.
I just checked Google news. The accusations are coming from Wemple himself? Didn’t bother to tell the readers today. If you are going to attack someone else’s journalistic standards, you should really make sure you live up to the standard. But why is Wemple so obsessed with de Borchgrave?
To limit the implications of this story to de Borchgrave is to take far too insular a perspective on it. The evidence of attribution failure against the columnist ropes in at least four other groups:
1) The journalists of the Washington Times, who are concerned that their news organization meet commonly accepted journalistic standards;
2) The Center for Strategic and International Studies, which has vowed to look into the work of de Borchgrave, who is a program director at the think tank;
3) News consumers; and
4) The people who crafted the original work that de Borchgrave appears to have lifted.
I have no idea whether de Borchgrave is “forgetful.” What I do know is that he has been publishing his work in the Washington Times and UPI. If he’s fit to write columns, he’s fit to answer for them.
(*-Reader couldn’t be reached by posting time to secure permission to use name.)