The New York Times has posted an editor’s note on an item about Italian Renaissance painter Piero di Cosimo that borrowed phrasing from a Wikipedia entry. It explains the problem in full:
Editors’ Note: July 31, 2014
The Inside Art column on July 25, about a planned exhibition of the works of the Renaissance painter Piero di Cosimo, started with a description of the artist’s life and eccentricities. That passage improperly used specific language and details from a Wikipedia article without attribution; it should not have been published in that form. (Editors learned of the problem after publication from a post on FishbowlNY.)
Well stated: The note acknowledges the offense and credits the outlet that turned up the similarities. Now compare and contrast:
The Wikipedia entry says:
During his lifetime, Cosimo acquired a reputation for eccentricity — a reputation enhanced and exaggerated by later commentators such as Giorgio Vasari, who included a biography of Piero di Cosimo in his Lives of the Artists. Reportedly, he was frightened of thunderstorms, and so pyrophobic that he rarely cooked his food; he lived largely on hard-boiled eggs, which he prepared 50 at a time while boiling glue for his artworks. He also resisted any cleaning of his studio, or trimming of the fruit trees of his orchard; he lived, wrote Vasari, “more like a beast than a man”.
The original passage in the New York Times item, by reporter Carol Vogel:
Artists can be eccentric, but the quirks of the Italian Renaissance master Piero di Cosimo are legendary. He is said to have been terrified of thunderstorms and so pyrophobic that he rarely cooked his food, subsisting mostly on hard-boiled eggs that he prepared 50 at a time while heating glue for his art. He didn’t clean his studio. He didn’t trim the trees in his orchard. Giorgio Vasari, the Renaissance biographer, described Piero as living “more like a beast than a man.”
And now, the cleaned-up New York Times treatment:
Artists can be eccentric, but the quirks of the Italian Renaissance master Piero di Cosimo were extreme. He refused to allow his rooms to be cleaned or his fig trees to be pruned, living more like a beast than a man, according to the Renaissance biographer Giorgio Vasari. He hated the sounds of coughing men, ringing bells and chanting friars, Vasari wrote.
The New York Times action comes after BuzzFeed last week fired staffer Benny Johnson for misappropriating material from Wikipedia and many other outlets. The online news organization found 41 tainted posts, all of which now carry editor’s notes. When newspapers find plagiarism in one example of a reporter’s work, they commonly conduct a broader investigation in search of other possible violations.