mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn

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.

Features Icon
show comments
  • Tom Holsinger

    I agree with John Podhoretz and Allahpundit that Zakaria’s case here smells of a ghostwriter’s work – that Zakaria farmed some, or parts, of his columns to others to write. I.e., to people whose careers are less impacted by the discovery of plagarism.

  • Kevin

    It’s always much harder to believe that one’s friends and allies are capable of bad acts than strangers and one’s enemies.

    You might be right about the ghost writer issue but to my mind this increases the culpability rather than reducing it. If Zakaria was not clear that work he was passing as his own was in fact done by ghost writers then this is really just an extension of plagiarism. Those who use ghost writers should make it clear to their readers that they do so.

    I suspect his success and ensuing celebrity status contributed. He had a choice to make: turn down further work (and hence additional money and further fame), admit much of his work was produced by other ghost writers (and hence share the credit) or try to pass it all off as his own product and try to retain all the rewards. He chose poorly.

  • dearieme

    “no excuses, no laying blame on careless assistants or anything else”: keep flogging those interns, Mr Mead.

  • Ed

    Let’s apply the tax return standard…you signed it, your responsible not matter who prepared it.

    Its scarier to think that someone else slapped this together and he signed off on it than that he copied someone else’s words to echo a similar thought and left out the quotation marks.

    Please don’t try to gloss this over…the guy is a hack no matter what the explanation is.

  • Ed

    ….and I am in the corner with the “dunce” cap on since I still don’t know how to spell “you’re”.

  • Tom Holsinger

    Kevin, I entirely agree. It is much worse if Zakaria’s plagiarism was the work of a hired writer. I saw his columns popping up in more and more places, and that’s why I agree with JPod and Allahpundit.

  • silia

    In the age of DJs who riff on other artists’ music and endless file-sharing on the internet, isn’t plagiarism a dead concept? We are living in the age of viral memes when who know what came from where and why.

  • Kenny

    “I and the rest of the staff will do our level best to produce an honest blog.”

    At least as far as the dictates of political correctness allow, right Mr. Mead?

  • Luke Lea

    Plagiarism is one thing I will never be accused of. 😉

  • Richard F. Miller

    Doc Meade:

    Accidental plagiarism is an oxymoron. Plagiarism is a strict liability offense. Intent may be relevant to friends who will act as friends should, but in consequences, it should not matter.

    I do know Mr. Zakaria, and have no comment other than this: as a close observer of all things Harvard, I complained (reasons unimportant) when it chose him as this year’s Commencement speaker. I was aghast–literally, I gasped–when I learned that he also delivered the same speech at Duke as he had at Harvard.

    You can (correctly) note, in our Google/Google Books world, of the myopia of a widely read columnist stealing the work of a widely read magazine. But it is not special form of foolishness to deliver the same commencement speech twice?

    I did not gasp a second time.

  • Richard F. Miller

    Error on above comment: I do *not* know Mr. Zakaria personally.

  • thibaud

    Who cares? Fareed Zakaria’s a media personality, not a serious intellectual who’s made anything close to an original contribution. He’s playing in the realm that Via Meadia hopes to occupy.

    In other news, Obama’s chances of being re-elected crossed 90% yesterday. Guess why.

  • elixelx

    Interesting that, with the apology, and the slap on the wrist (not even a rap on the knuckles, or a backhander to the chhek!) this GOES NO FURTHER! and you useful idiots accept that!
    Well, whoopee! Do your jobs REPORTERS & JOURNALISTS! (I’m sneering as I write those words!) Don’t let the sob off the hook because he apologised. His crestfall is a firewall designed to prevent further disclosure…and you idiots have bought it, hook line and stinker (sic).
    This is ZAKARIA, guys, who has wickedly smeared and blurred every conservative person and point of view under the sun for ever so long. He works for TINA BROWN! Go after him; expose him for what he says he did (plagiarise!).
    Why are you people saying he didn’t?

  • Tom

    @silia: No, it isn’t, because this sort of thing actually requires work.

  • David

    Silia: file-sharing, viral memes, the “riffing” of DJ culture – these have no bearing whatsoever on the issue of plagiarism, which is and will always be a form of fakery and dishonesty, regardless of changes in technology. Your confusion is very common, however. If you’re asking whether plagiarism is a “dead concept,” you might as well ask whether honesty and personal integrity are dead concepts. They may well be, but that’s hardly a cause for celebration.

  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    Fareed Zakaria is a leftist, which is the definition of a lier, as only by lying to themselves and others can leftists maintain the fiction that their politics work in the face of real world evidence that it has never worked. His book “The Post-American World” is about managing American Decline, while ignoring that the American share of World GDP has remained relatively constant for 30 years, and that it is the European Style Welfare States that are in decline while other developing nations take their market share. Leftists like him have to lie to themselves and others so plagiarism is common on the left, as claiming someone else’s work as your own is just another form of lying.

  • ari

    WRM maybe being to easy on Fareed for personal and professional reasons but how do you explain his other case of copying,

  • Mick The Reactionary

    Zakaria, a fanatical globalist, has built a career on his identity as a fashionable non-American who lectures the natives on the need to give up their country and adapt to the global community, particularly to Islam.

    What is a little plagiarizing and outsourcing the work to enslaved writers as compared to the thoroughly rotten global man.

  • Mick The Reactionary

    @HopyChange campaign official troll:

    “In other news, Obama’s chances of being re-elected crossed 90% yesterday.”

    When it hits 110% you let us know.

  • WigWag

    Professor Mead says, “I have known Fareed for many years…” Another journalist that he has probably known for many years is Jim Fallows. Unless I am mistaken, Mead and Fallows are both trustees of the New America Foundation an organization which has among other things been vitriolic in it’s criticism of Israel and sympathetic to the Mullahs who run Iran. Amongst the “fellows” that this strange organization has employed are Flynt Leverett who may be the single most prominent supporter of the thuggish Iranian leadership that we have in the United States and Daniel Levy who, despite being an Israeli has called the founding of Israel a “mistake.”

    Fallows, the one-time President of the New America Foundation, is also the long-time “National Correspondent” for the “Atlantic.” Jeffrey Goldberg of the “Atlantic” has previously accused Zakaria of plagiarizing from his work in that magazine.

    16 years ago, Fallows wrote an interesting book entitled, “Breaking the News: How the Media Undermine American Democracy.” The major theme of the book was how unhealthy it was for discourse in the United States for journalists to be treated as media sensations or rock stars. Fallow’s book turned out to be prescient. This is exactly what happened to Zakaria; it seems he forgot that he was a mere journalist and seems to have come to believe that he was a media diva.

    What Zakaria misunderstood is that while it may be questionable but still acceptable for Lady Gaga to plagiarize “Born this Way” from Madonna’s “Express Yourself,” that doesn’t make it acceptable for him to steal from Jill Lepore or the “New Yorker” for his “Time” or CNN columns.

    The admonition in Fallow’s book was written before the age of blogging, but it applies to bloggers just as much as it applies to print and broadcast journalists.

    It’s not just about plagiarism. Bad things happen when journalists or bloggers are wined and dined around the world as if they were visiting dignitaries. It must surely be tempting to craft your reporting in a manner designed to to grossly offend whomever is providing you with your free trip.

    Being on guard against this temptation is equally important to making sure that an unattributed quotation is not lifted accidentally or deliberately from a colleague.

  • WigWag

    My previous comment contained an error. I wrote,

    “It must surely be tempting to craft your reporting in a manner designed to grossly offend whomever is providing you with your free trip.”

    Of course what I meant to say was,

    It must surely be tempting to craft your reporting in a manner designed not to grossly offend whomever is providing you with your free trip.

    Sorry for the mistake.

  • Anonymous

    What are these “extremely perceptive” insights you attribute to Fareed?

    He’s a garden variety liberal, if his name was Fred Zachary he’d be nobody.

  • Mick The Reactionary


    “What are these “extremely perceptive” insights you attribute to Fareed?”

    Similar to those superbly perceptive insights Fired Zakaria found in Prof Mead work.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service