Thursday, April 21, 2016


Accepting “100% of the blame” for a plagiarism controversy earlier this week affecting Black Lives Matter activist Shaun King, fired New York Daily News assignment editor Jotham Sederstrom posted a blog at Medium explaining how the incident happened, providing readers with a window into the frenetic pace and technological perils in modern online journalism. [h/t Mediaite]

“[T]he controversy — a [expletive deleted] up on my part, to put it bluntly — comes down to two unintentional, albeit inexcusable, instances of sloppy editing on my part and a formatting glitch” related to the Daily News’s Content Management System (CMS), Sederstrom explained.

As regards the human error, Sederstrom explained how a high-pressure environment played a role in his inadvertently excising King’s attribution of sources:

“In those two cases where no citation or hyperlink appeared in the column, I believe I likely cut attribution from the top of Shaun’s quoted text with the intention of pasting them back inside the block — only to get distracted with another of the many responsibilities I juggled as an editor. On any given day I was tasked with editing not only Shaun’s column but roughly 20 other news stories from five reporters, all of whom filed early and often. Add to that a whiplash-inducing crescendo of breaking news, a handful of administrative responsibilities and the chaos typical of most newsrooms, and it’s easier to fathom how frequently focus can snap from one second to the next. This is not an excuse, but here I take issue with Jim Rich’s assertion that these mistakes were “inexplicable.” They can happen easily if you’re not paying extreme attention to detail at every moment. Many of us in the news industry are increasingly under pressure to deliver an ever higher volume of stories with ever fewer resources and let’s just say, that doesn’t help. I don’t say that to absolve myself of blame, but to illustrate how this happened with no intention on my part to damage Shaun’s reputation or the paper’s.”

King, you may recall, was initially accused on Twitter of plagiarizing entire paragraphs of a Daily Beast article, only to subsequently exonerate himself by providing email evidence that his column draft as emailed to his editor was properly sourced.

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