Plagiarism at the Daily Beast: Gerald Posner concedes lifting from the Miami Herald.

Media criticism.
Feb. 5 2010 3:18 PM

Plagiarism at the Daily Beast

Veteran journalist Gerald Posner concedes that he lifted from the Miami Herald.

Gerald Posner. Click image to expand.
Gerald Posner

Veteran journalist Gerald Posner acknowledged today that he copied five sentences from a Miami Herald article this week for a piece he wrote for the Daily Beast. The Daily Beast appended an editor's note to the beginning of Posner's piece today, explaining that the copying was "inadvertent" and that the Daily Beast has deleted the copied passages.

Here are the relevant sentences from the Feb. 2 Miami Herald story by Julie Brown, which was about a local murder and estate battle:

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The Novacks, who wed in 1991, had a tumultuous marriage. In 2002, Narcy Novack and two others tied Novack Jr. to a chair, threatened to kill him and removed money from his safe, according to the police report.

"If I can't have you, no one else will," she told him, according to a divorce petition he filed and later dropped.

At the time, Narcy Novack told police the incident was part of a sex game.

She also showed them pornographic pictures of women with artificial limbs, claiming her husband had a fetish for them.

Here are the sentences that have been redacted from Posner's Feb. 2 Daily Beastpiece:

There is little doubt the Novacks had a volatile relationship. In 2002, 11 years into their marriage, Narcy and two others tied Ben Jr. to a chair, threatened to kill him and took money from his safe, according to the police report filed at the time.

"If I can't have you, no one else will," she told him, according to a divorce petition Ben Jr. filed and then dropped.

Narcy told police investigators at the time that the entire episode was part of a sex game. And she also showed them porno snapshots of women with artificial limbs having sex, claiming her husband had a fetish for them.

(Here's a cached version of the original Posner article.)

When asked whether what Posner did was plagiarism, Daily BeastExecutive Editor Edward Felsenthal didn't dodge. Reading aloud from the definition of plagiarism on Dictionary.com—"the unauthorized use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one's own original work"—he agreed that that's what Posner did. "Yeah, you'd have to say it's plagiarism," he said. "I do believe it was inadvertent."

Posner, theDaily Beast's chief investigative reporter, didn't make any excuses, either. And he made no effort to escape the P-word, which writers caught stealing copy usually do.

Stating that he was "horrified" at what he did, Posner agreed that it constitutes plagiarism. But he couldn't figure out how he did it.

He said he had no memory of having seen the Herald story, describing himself as "absolutely sure" he did not see it before sending his own story to Beast editors. But that memory must be wrong, he said, because the similarities between the two pieces are too great, and the Herald's storywas posted before he e-mailed his to his editors at 2:03 a.m. on Feb. 2.