By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Katie Couric did a one-minute commentary last week on the joys of getting her first library card, but the thoughts were less than original. The piece was substantially lifted from a Wall Street Journal column.
CBS News apologized for the plagiarized passages yesterday and said the commentary had been written by a network producer who has since been fired.
The CBS anchor "was horrified," spokeswoman Sandy Genelius said. "We all were."
The "Katie's Notebook" items are distributed to CBS television and radio stations, including WTOP (103.5 FM and 820 AM) in Washington, and posted on the news division's Web site. Genelius said it is "very common" for the first-person commentaries to be put together by staffers without Couric's being involved in the writing, but that she does participate in topic selection. Her recent commentaries have ranged from the Iraq war and the paucity of female columnists to the movie "300" and many girls discarding dating for "hooking up."
In an Editor's Note posted online and distributed to CBS stations, the network said "much of the material" in the library commentary came from Journal columnist Jeffrey Zaslow, "and we should have acknowledged that at the top of our piece. We offer our sincere apologies for the omission."
What made the ripoff especially striking was the personal flavor of a video -- now removed from the CBS Web site -- that began, "I still remember when I got my first library card, browsing through the stacks for my favorite books."
Much of the rest of the script was stolen from the Journal. Couric said: "For kids today, the library is more removed from their lives. It's a last-ditch place to go if they need to find something out."
Zaslow wrote in March: "The library is more removed from their lives. It's a last-ditch place to go if they need to find something out."
Couric said: "Sure, children still like libraries, but books aren't the draw."
Zaslow wrote: "Sure, there are still library-loving children, but books aren't necessarily the draw."
Couric cited the same statistic as the Journal column -- a 60 percent rise in sales of hardcover juvenile books -- as "an encouraging sign that kids value reading." Zaslow had called that "an encouraging sign that kids still value books."
Genelius, who declined to name the dismissed producer, said CBS quickly responded to a letter from the Journal. "They were absolutely, 100 percent right," she said.
Zaslow said yesterday that CBS has "been very gracious and apologetic, and we at the Journal appreciate it."