Way too much credit for someone else’s work

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April 14, 2017 by AK

More details in the curious case of Turovsky & Meduza vs. Kramer & the Gray Lady, by RuNet Echo at Global Voices.

“Take one text by Turovsky on Meduza, then take a second text by Turovsky on Meduza, stir, stir, and POOF you’ve got a New York Times article,” Gorbachev [editor of Meduza] wrote on Facebook on December 30, adding, “As Donald Trump says in these cases, DISHONEST!”

Andrew Kramer insists he did interview Turovsky’s principal informant:

In fact, I was in contact with Vyarya directly. I verified and discussed elements of his story. And he gave me a quote that was similar to and slightly different from what he told Meduza.

If true, this would rule out straight plagiarism. Yes, Vyarya’s quotes from the NYT articles look like translations of his Meduza quotes. Still, I wouldn’t be too surprised if it turned out that Vyarya copied his own words from Turovsky’s piece and passed them on to Kramer.

However, a bigger question would remain: is Kramer’s work truly original investigative journalism?

The term “investigative journalism” is self-explanatory. Suppose a young provincial detective has solved a challenging case. A more experienced colleague arrives from the headquarters to double-check on the local officer’s work. The older man retraces the younger one’s path, talking to the same witnesses and going through the same dossier. Coming to the same conclusion as his predecessor, the weathered cop types a report that is short on detail but guaranteed to satisfy the police chief. The original investigator’s results have now been validated and repackaged; he’s still the one who solved the case.

The same should apply to investigative journalism. It’s worth adding that, as a rule, local reporters take greater risks while digging for the truth than their colleagues with American or British passports. The former risk death, injury, imprisonment; the latter, expulsion at worst.

There’s also the question of credibility. The NYT and the WaPo have taken an obviously partisan approach to all matters related to Donald Trump, even indirectly and tenuously, such as the subject of Russian cyberactivity. A Russian journalist looking into the latter is unlikely to have a strong anti-Trump bias, while the golden pens of the NYT tend to be never-Trumpers.


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