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Aug 16 / King Kaufman

Fareed Zakaria plagiarism scandal: Cite your sources diligently

If you haven’t been following the latest hot big-name plagiarism scandal, here’s a good rundown of the Case of Fareed Zakaria from

Zakaria, a pundit and author who has written bestselling books, hosts the CNN international-affairs show “GPS” and writes for Time magazine, the Washington Post and, was accused by the conservative blog NewsBusters of plagiarism in a Time column headlined The Case for Gun Control.

NewsBusters pointed out that Zakaria had copied several passages, unattributed, from a New Yorker essay Jill Lepore wrote in the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting, Battleground America. Zakaria issued a statement admitting that he’d plagiarized, calling it “a terrible mistake” and “a serious lapse,” and apologizing.

Time said in a statement reported by Politico’s Dylan Byers that it “accepts Fareed’s apology,” but that it was suspending him for a month, “pending further review.” CNN and the Post also suspended the writer.

But that wasn’t the end of it. On Tuesday, Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic brought up an old score, writing about Zakaria stealing some quotes from Goldberg three years ago. Goldberg linked to his own 2009 blog post about a Newsweek cover story in which Zakaria had taken quotes from two of Goldberg’s stories—from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and an aide—but wrote it to make it seem as though the men had spoken to Zakaria.

Through quotes by Reuters media critic Jack Shafer, Goldberg pointed out that quote-stealing is contrary to the standards of journalism.

Remarkably, Zakaria publicly disagreed. In an email to Goldberg that Goldberg posted on his blog, Zakaria wrote:

I think it is quite untrue that it is standard journalistic practice to name the interviewer when quoting from an interview. Look through the New Yorker, the New York Times, or any other prestigious publication and you will see that most quotes from interviews do NOT mention the name of the interviewer. This is a subject close to my heart since I interview people every Sunday. On Monday, we get clips of the papers, magazines, and blogs that quote from these interviews. Most do not mention my name. Many do not even mention CNN. They simply say, “In an interview, “Mr. X said…”  I wish they did but they don’t.”

Goldberg writes, “I don’t think the practice of non-attribution is quite so common as he thinks it is.”

And that brings us at last to my point: However common that practice is or is not, it ain’t right.

Zakaria had annoyed Goldberg by writing, “In an interview last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the Iranian regime as a ‘messianic, apocalyptic cult’”—which implied that the interview had been conducted by Zakaria. It had actually been conducted by Goldberg, and Zakaria got the quote from Goldberg’s piece.

There’s no gray area here for Bleacher Report writers. If you quote someone, cite where the quote came from and, if possible, link to the original. If you got the quote yourself in an interview, make that clear.

There shouldn’t be any ambiguity. As Shafer told Goldberg, “The reader needs to know the chain of custody of the quote.”

But of course, you know all that, because you regularly review Verifying Sources: A primer and checklist.

  • Roger B. Light

    Great post, very helpful.