The news that Fareed Zakaria has apologized for plagiarizing a portion of his column at Time magazine and been suspended from both Time and CNN comes as a shock. I’ve known Fareed for many years and have a hard time believing that he would do anything as wrong or as dumb as deliberately appropriating someone else’s work. Especially in this age of Google that seems like a very stupid thing to do, and Fareed is a fluent enough writer that he can hardly have needed to steal someone else’s words. In all the years I’ve known Fareed, I’ve never met with anything but the most decent and straightforward behavior from him myself.I was struck by the direct quality of his apology: no excuses, no laying blame on careless assistants or anything else. Fareed took responsibility for what happened and made no attempt in his statement to soften the facts. I note that Saddleback pastor Rick Warren tweeted that Fareed showed the right way to apologize, and I agree. (@RickWarren)It’s hard not to speculate about how this happened; in an age of cut and paste and quick deadlines, there are many more ways to get in trouble than there used to be. If I had to guess, I don’t think Fareed for one minute deliberately intended to appropriate someone’s work. I wouldn’t be surprised if a combination of working from notes, perhaps put together by a researcher, and great haste and carelessness had more to do with what happened than a deliberate decision to do something wrong. It’s a reminder to all of us in the writing biz to be careful and serious about getting it right, and to give credit where credit is due.I haven’t always agreed with Fareed on the issues, but at his best he’s capable of extremely perceptive insights about the developing world system. Plagiarism, even accidental plagiarism of the kind I suspect Fareed is guilty of, is serious business and neither he nor anybody else should take what happened lightly. Nevertheless, Fareed has more to offer and I hope he finds a way to make that happen.And it’s something we’re taking to heart here at Via Meadia. We do our absolute best to make sure that we give full and fair credit to all the people whose work we refer to in the posts on this site and so far (knock on wood) nothing has gone wrong so far as we know. But putting out a lot of content with a small, geographically scattered staff is a challenge. Over the next couple of weeks we will be reviewing our procedures and our training to make sure that everyone involved in this enterprise understands exactly how important it is to avoid even the appearance of plagiarism.Although I joke about blaming the interns when things go wrong, I know very well where the buck stops at this site; it’s Via Meadia, not Via Intern. In the end it all boils down to trust; we know we have to earn that trust and keep it. I can’t promise that we won’t make mistakes; I do promise that I’ll never knowingly and deliberately appropriate material from other sources and pass it off as original content and that I and the rest of the staff will do our level best to produce an honest blog.