Fox News pundit and former NPR news analyst Juan Williams just admitted to lifting large portions of a Center for American Progress report without attributing the source in a recent column that for the Hill. Weeks after the article was published, it was edited online and large sections of the article are now in quotation marks. According to Salon, which caught the changes in the article first, Williams holds that the similarities were inadvertent and that his researcher had sent him the data that he used and Williams had thought that to be a summary written in the researcher’s words, not the original text.
Regardless of who is at fault, before putting his name down on said article, it probably would have been prudent of Williams to check his researcher’s work — and maybe add his own thoughts to it A more important question is raised from this incident: Do these pundits actually write their own material, or are they simply plagiarizing from each other’s work and depending on ghost-writers, such as this researcher, for the material that they get the credit for?
Williams isn't the first pundit to be caught plagiarizing — Fareed Zakaria was suspended from TIME and CNN last summer when he admitted to copying sections of another writer’s article in his own article, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd was caught lifting paragraphs by a Talking Points Memo blogger in 2009, and just earlier this week, Fox News published an article on its website with paragraphs nearly identical to a story already published by POLITICO.
And likely, he won’t be the last to get caught and have the career-killing p-word hang around his neck but the fact of the matter is, in this day and age of technology, it’s almost silly that these pundits and writers are copying, often word-for-word, from each other and not expecting to get caught.
Williams also told Salon that he felt “betrayed” by his researcher, who has handed in his letter of resignation, but Williams is the one who deserves all the blame.
According to Williams, he had been writing a column about the immigration debate and needed more data to “pump up” his argument. He had asked his researcher to “look around to see what data existed.” In other words, the researcher’s job was to do what his position implied: find data. It was not to find data and base an argument off of it in his words, which Williams could copy and paste into his article.
What is the point of these talking heads — like Williams and Zakaria — who are getting paid to present information and ideas that they haven’t thought of? Aside from the blatant plagiarism, Williams’ researcher seems more like a behind-the-scenes ghost writer, and Zakaria himself has faced accusations of running pieces written by ghost writers. What exactly is it that these men, who certainly aren't alone in their ranks, getting paid for? Putting their names under other people’s work? Is that what American-media has become, at this point?