Dude, you stole my article.

Arts, entertainment, and more.
Aug. 6 2008 4:00 PM

Dude, You Stole My Article

How I investigated a suspicious alt weekly.

Editor's Note: The Bulletin's Web site appears to have been taken down since this article was posted. All links to Bulletin content in this article now lead to screen grabs captured by Slate when the Bulletin site was still live.

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As for the articles: more of the same. The cover feature on those sizzling summer CDs seems cribbed from three sources: an Allaboutjazz.com piece about Willie Nelson and Wynton Marsalis, an Amazon.com customer review of a Band of Heathens CD, and a Jambase.com review of the band Reckless Kelly. A review of the new Coldplay album   looks an awful lot like a review first published in the Daily Telegraph. An op-ed titled "Environmentally Incorrect: How McCain Can Prove He Won't Be Like Bush"is apparently a rejiggered Joe Conason column. Even the Bulletin's letters to the editor   appear not to be letters at all but op-ed pieces written by a couple of professors and published elsewhere first.

In other words, with the exception of the local events listings, every single item in the June 3-July 10 Bulletin is suspicious. Indeed, I wonder: In purely statistical terms, do the articles in the Montgomery County Bulletin amount to the greatest plagiarism scandal in the annals of American journalism?

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But perhaps the Bulletin is merely on-trend—or even ahead of its time. The Drudge Report, the Huffington Post, and Real Clear Politics have made names and money by sifting through RSS feeds; Tina Brown and Barry Diller are preparing the launch of their own news aggregator. Mike Ladyman and company may simply be bringing guerilla-style 21st-century content aggregation to 20th-century print media: publishing the Napster of newspapers.

In any case, there is at least one example of original writing in the current Bulletin. At the top of the masthead section is a note about the paper's distribution—an obvious point of pride for Mike Ladyman. It reads: "The Bulletin is available free to readers and distributes 20,000 papers every Thursday at 572 locations." There then follows this sentence:

The Bulletin is distributed at outdoor racks, book stores, barber shops, hair salons, nail salons, cleaners, coffee houses, liquor stores, meat markets, convenience stores, grocery stores, brake shops, tire stores, transmission shops, body shops, insurance agents, banks, libraries, hotels, motels, gyms, drug stores, clinics, hospitals, doctors, dentist [sic], chiropractors, college campuses, restaurants, movie theaters, bars, night clubs, ice houses, etc.

Now, this is a great piece of writing, an epic catalog in the Homeric mode: a poem, a poem, forsooth! Journalists hallow truth, but beauty trumps truth, and when the list of Bulletin distribution locales hurtles forward in breakneck rhythm ("transmission shops, body shops, insurance agents"), rising to that ringing final cadence—ice houses, etc.—who but the hard-hearted and the tin-eared could deny the beauty of those words? I may have to borrow them sometime.

Jody Rosen is a Slate contributor.

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