On Wednesday, Slate writer Jack Shafer did what most columnists only hope for--have a concrete impact, and quickly. On a tip from one of his readers, Shafer dug up several instances of plagiarism by The Daily Beast's chief investigative reporter Gerald Posner. The revelations provoked an in-house investigation at The Beast that uncovered further instances of plagiarism. Posner has since been dismissed.
Shafer has made a habit of pushing journalists to be more accurate and responsible from his post at Slate's Press Box, a column devoted to media criticism. Voices like his are increasingly crucial as journalistic mores shift, with Shafer both demonstrating and explaining how Web writing can work. His response to Posner's resignation is one illustration.
On his blog, Posner attributed his failure to compiling too many types of sources at the "warp speed of the net." Shafer's response is both cutting and incisive:
As one who has been working at the warp speed of the Net since 1996, who routinely gathers Nexis dumps, clipped Web pages, scanned documents, handwritten notebooks, recorded interviews, DVRed news shows, hard-cover books bristling with Post-It notes, and nests of newspaper clippings fit for the incubation of Layson albatross eggs, I don't buy it. In recent years, I've written upward of 120 pieces annually, and my harder-working Slate colleagues—John Dickerson, Christopher Beam, Emily Bazelon, Timothy Noah, William Saletan, Dahlia Lithwick, Farhad Manjoo, et al.—have posted similar or higher numbers while writing on deadline. None of them has plagiarized. Nor have I.