New York Times business reporter Zachery Kouwe has resigned from the newspaper amid allegations of plagiarism.
Several instances of "apparent plagiarism" were first brought to the attention of the Times' executive editor, Bill Keller, last Friday in a letter from the managing editor of The Wall Street Journal, Robert Thomson. Thomson pointed to six sentences that Kouwe had lifted from an article written by Journal reporter Amir Efrati on February 5th. Kouwe's article in the Times' DealBook blog appeared almost two hours after Efrati's article had been published on Dow Jones Newswires and the Journal.
In his article, "Madoff Sons, Brother, Niece, Being Sued by Trustees for Victims," Efrati wrote, "Mr. Picard said the family received about $141 million in the six months leading up to Mr. Madoff's December 2008 arrest." Kouwe's article read, "Mr. Picard said the family received about $141 million in the six months leading up to Mr. Madoff's arrest in December 2008."
In an editor's note that appeared Monday, the Times acknowledged that Kouwe appeared to have "improperly appropriated wording and passages published by other news organizations."
An internal investigation by the Times uncovered "other cases of extensive overlap between passages in Mr. Kouwe's articles and other news organizations.'"
Kouwe was suspended pending a meeting with representative of the Times and The Newspaper Guild of New York. When the meeting was held late Tuesday, Kouwe resigned, according to two anonymous sources who spoke to the Times.
In an interview with The New York Observer, Kouwe maintained that he had never intentionally plagiarized. "Basically, there was a minor news story and I thought we needed to have a presence for it on the blog," he said.
"In the essence of speed, I'll look at various wire services and throw it into our back-end publishing system, which is WordPress, and then I'll go and report it out and make sure all the facts are correct. It's not like an investigative piece. It's usually something that comes off a press release, an earnings report, it's court documents."
Just last week, investigative reporter Gerald Posner resigned from The Daily Beast after Slate uncovered several instances in which he had plagiarized work from other publications. Posner blamed his accidental plagiarism on the "warp speed of the net."
These latest examples of high-profile plagiarism in the news highlight some of the pitfalls of a new era of journalism, one redefined by blogs, Twitter posts, and a faster flow of information. Journalistic ethics and standards, however, are things that never change.