Former New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson, who is touring the media circuit now in promotion of her new book, Merchants of Truth: The Business of News and the Fight for Facts, has problems that extend far beyond her terrible interviewing techniques.
She has been accused of plagiarizing huge portions of her book, which, ironically enough, is about ethical journalism.
Vice News’ Michael Moynihan, whose newsroom appears in a none-too-flattering light in Abramson’s book, was the first to accuse the former Times editor outright of theft.
“ All three chapters on Vice were clotted with mistakes. Lots of them. The truth promised in Merchants of Truth was often not true,” he tweeted. “While trying to corroborate certain claims, I noticed that it also contained … plagiarized passages.”
Moynihan provided hard examples to back his allegation, including side-by-side comparisons of Abramson’s book and the works from which she most certainly appears to have plagiarized. For example:
The following examples from the final book—not the galley—are only from the Vice chapters (I didn’t check the others). So let’s begin…Here is Abramson on Gavin McInnes (whom she interviewed) and the Ryerson Review of Journalism https://t.co/hx0XcyZ89k pic.twitter.com/qroN59gyVk
— Michael C Moynihan (@mcmoynihan)
February 6, 2019
Moynihan warned that he had only looked a the passages directly pertaining to Vice. Journalist Ian Frisch also claims to have found examples of plagiarism in Merchants of Truth, saying he knows the passages in Abramson’s book are not original because he wrote them:
It’s worth noting that the above examples were uncovered after only a cursory review of the Abramson book. There may be much more where this comes from, and it may get much worse for the author.
Abramson, for her part, defended herself from the allegations Wednesday, claiming in a Fox News interview that she “certainly didn’t plagiarize” and that she doesn’t “think it’s an issue at all.” She also boasted that Merchants of Truth has roughly 70 pages of footnotes. However, the problem with this final claim is that there is not a single thing in those more than 70 pages of footnotes to explain the similarities between what’s in her book and the examples highlighted by Moynihan.
It’s entirely possible that this entire episode is about an assistant who failed to notify an author about the source of the material provided for her book. It’s entirely possible that Abramson never meant to include the works of other authors without attribution, and that this is all the result of miscommunication between her and the people who helped her write her book. But Abramson is not making any of those defenses. She is not even acknowledging that portions of her book read note-for-note like materials written long before she even landed a book deal. Rather, Abramson’s response so far has been to claim that the allegations are sour grapes from a newsroom that is unhappy with the way it is portrayed in her book.
“Many people from Vice have been taking issue with the book it seems,” she said on Fox News. “I think they don’t like the portrayal of Vice.”
She added later, in a series of Tweets, that, “The attacks on my book from some [Vice News] reflect their unhappiness with what I consider a balanced portrayal.”
Abramson also said on social media, “I endeavored to accurately and properly give attribution to the hundreds of sources that were part of my research. I take seriously the issues raised and will review the passages in question.”
We eagerly await the findings of her review.