'Marketplace' Drops Contributor Over Plagiarism

Investment adviser Gabriel Wisdom, a regular contributor to the public radio show, says he
Investment adviser Gabriel Wisdom, a regular contributor to the public radio show, says he "never intended to . . . take someone else's work as my own." (By Howard Lipin -- San Diego Union-tribune)
By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 24, 2005

In his regular commentary for the public radio show "Marketplace" earlier this month, investment adviser Gabriel Wisdom talked about what he called "the British ski instructor theory. Immigration tends to tell us something about the supply and demand for workers in this country," adding that "companies might look overseas to hire engineers, or computer programmers, or nannies, or seasonal employees."

Slate.com columnist Daniel Gross was furious when he heard this, for he had written in the online magazine on May 27 about "the British ski instructor theory. Immigration trends tell us something about the supply and demand for workers in this country. . . . Companies may look overseas to hire engineers, computer programmers, nannies or seasonal employees."

"This has been a nightmare," J.J. Yore, executive producer of "Marketplace," said last night, adding that the program has dropped Wisdom as a contributor and will broadcast an on-air apology. "We take this incredibly seriously. It's an awful situation. It certainly looks pretty incontrovertible that Wisdom appropriated complete phrases from somebody else's work."

"Marketplace," which is produced in Los Angeles by American Public Media, is carried by public radio stations across the country.

"I'm not a journalist," Wisdom said yesterday. "I don't know journalistic standards. I rely on 'Marketplace' for that. I never intended to plagiarize or take someone else's work as my own." The Harvard Business School graduate served as business editor for two San Diego radio stations between 1984 and 1995.

Jacob Weisberg, editor of Slate, which is owned by The Washington Post Co., said, "It is the most extreme example of plagiarism I've ever seen by a major news organization." He said he was disappointed that the program's online statement of apology didn't use the word plagiarism.

Yore said "Marketplace" is scrutinizing previous segments involving Wisdom and is also conducting a review of its relationship with freelance contributors.

In his June 13 segment, Wisdom also lifted, virtually word for word, two other lengthy passages from the Slate "Moneybox" column, with such phrases as "the dollar's movements tend to confound the plans of math geniuses" and "the dollar is a brand, just like Coca-Cola." He began to repeat Gross's first-person line that "I had a British ski instructor in Colorado a few years ago," but stopped himself and talked about "friends from abroad."

Wisdom, who works for California-based American Money Management and hosts a call-in show on KLSX in Los Angeles, said he twice credited author and securities executive Michael Panzner, whom Gross extensively credited in his piece for the theory about immigrants. But Wisdom said, and Yore confirmed, that this was "edited out prior to broadcast" when producers cut down his segment.

He said that he didn't realize some of the ideas came from Gross and that he should have credited him for a "terrific" Slate column.

Gross, who was notified by someone who had read his piece, said: "I've been a journalist for 20 years, from my freshman year on the Cornell Daily Sun, and never had anything like this happen. To hear it on the air almost induces more anger than seeing it in print."

During the segment, the "Marketplace" interviewer, Lisa Napoli, told Wisdom: "The currency markets are so big that to move them, the immigrants would have to be Rupert Murdoch or something." Gross had written: "But the currency markets are so big that to move them, the immigrants would have to be a bunch of billionaires like Rupert Murdoch."

Yore said that Napoli feels "bamboozled" because Wisdom suggested the questions, which he said is a common practice for contributors doing interview segments.

Wisdom sounded contrite, saying: "I feel like I really stepped in one here. I'm very sorry to be a party to this."


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