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« Ruth Taylor Brown | Main | Black boxes »

May 29, 2010


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this has been the best advertisement for the dark side. business always picks up when both sides go paranoid on an issue like this. it keeps psychiatric facilities full and big pharma rocking. One side is seen as arrogant and meddlers get to help people with things they don't want to be helped with. It's a gift from below.


The devil is in the details, no doubt. Or in this case, the smoke and mirrors.


"Reprint the section, and then re-collate tens of thousands of papers?"

Yes. That's what I'd have done were it my paper.


It certainly could have been addressed on the N&R web site by now -- blurb on the opinions main page, a post on the editor's last-posed-to-eight-days-ago blog or even as a news story interviewing the author -- none of those things appear to have happened.

Ed Cone

"That's what I'd have done were it my paper."


But let's say you're the publisher in charge of making numbers for somebody else's paper, an effort in which you'd been required to slash costs for years, and by some unlikely circumstance you got word on the afternoon of a holiday Saturday that there was an issue in the next morning's edition that would require considerable expense to address.

You'd probably do some triage.

Anything short of libel that is going to get your ass sued off is unlikely to cause an expensive emergency redo.

A pastor using without attribution his denomination's published position to express his own views on an issue? Makes the pastor look bad, makes the paper look bad, but not really an existential crisis.

A story in the Monday paper? You have one reporter on duty on most weekends, and your Monday edition is pretty much a news-free zone. And in any case, you see a blurb as adequate to the offense.

That's how I'd guess the math and the logic works on Market Street.

Now, should the N&R have something up online by now, in, say, one of the editor's blogs? Absolutely.


Yeah, okay, I'll concede the "maybe." The explanations that you articulate though are not external circumstances beyond the N&R's control -- they are the consequences of how the N&R has chosen to respond to circumstances. Yes, it's second-guessing, Monday morning quarterbacking and there could be other detrimental consequences if the N&R took another course (shedding editors in favor of peer editing by reporters more tech curious, for example).

Nonetheless, the advertised value proposition of the N&R is "The most trusted source for local news and analysis." If the enterprise structure makes a mockery of that, either the structure should change or the N&R needs to realign its value proposition with what every its real value is. After all, "Pay for the exclusive ability to read our columns on line that may or may not be original or accurate," is not very compelling.

Joe Killian

Spoke with the pastor a little while ago.

I'm not on today but I'm going to do something for tomorrow's print edition anyway. Allen Johnson's addressing it on his blog -- he found out when I called him this afternoon.

In short: He acknowledges he used text without attributing it, says he doesn't usually have to use footnotes or attributions in either personal letters or sermons but when he turned it over for use in the paper he should have thought to do that. He apologizes and hopes it won't take away from any of the issues that still need to be discussed.

Ed Cone

Allen Johnson has posted at his blog about the non-attribution problem, with quotes from the pastor; my blog post has been updated with a link to Allen's blog.



I think it is remarkable that a pastor would deliver a sermon, passed off as his own, with seven paragraphs copied word for word from other sources and consider that acceptable -- but that is between him and his congregation. In print, however, footnotes are not the remedy. One does not copy others' works with no attribution or quotation marks within the body, even if footnotes say "I copied this paragraph."

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