Robert Thomson’s Letter to Bill Keller about Zachery Kouwe’s ‘Apparent Plagiarism’

kouwe190 0 Robert Thomsons Letter to Bill Keller about Zachery Kouwes Apparent PlagiarismOn Friday, Feb. 12, Robert Thomson, the editor-in-chief of The Wall Street Journal wrote Times executive editor Bill Keller to inform him of “apparent plagiarism in The New York Times.”

In the letter, Mr. Thomson cites six examples of material where he believes Times reporter Zachery Kouwe plagiarized Journal reporter Amir Efrati from a story that was published on Feb. 5. The Journal‘s story was published on the Dow Jones Newswires at 12:31pm on Feb. 5, and the Times story was published nearly two hours later, Mr. Thomson wrote.

“There was no general news release about this particular story and the Journal’s coverage was  informed by original reporting…” he wrote.

Today, the Times published an editors’ note, which read, in part, “A subsequent search by The Times found other cases of extensive overlap between passages in Mr. Kouwe’s articles and other news organizations.”

Mr. Kouwe had a byline in the Times as late as Saturday.

Here is Mr. Thomson’s letter:

Dear Mr. Keller,

I’m writing to alert you to a case of apparent plagiarism in the New York Times. As you’ll see from the text below, a significant proportion of an article by Wall Street Journal reporter Amir Efrati was used verbatim, or near verbatim, in a story by the Times‘ Zachery Kouwe, both online and in print. There was no general news release about this particular story and the Journal’s coverage was informed by original reporting and a meticulous review of legal files related to the case of Mr. Bernard Madoff.

Mr. Efrati’s Wall Street Journal story, titled, “Madoff Sons, Brother, Niece Being Sued by Trustees for Victims” was published on Dow Jones Newswires at 12:25 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 5, and was published on WSJ.com shortly thereafter. At 2:31 p.m., Mr. Kouwe published a related, in fact, a remarkably related story. The examples below show the striking similarities.

Example 1:

Mr. Efrati wrote:

Mr. Picard said the family received about $141 million in the six months leading up to Mr. Madoff’s December 2008 arrest.

Mr. Kouwe wrote:

Mr. Picard said the family received about $141 million in the six months leading up to Mr. Madoff’s arrest in December 2008.

Example 2:

Mr. Efrati wrote:

The family members agreed not to transfer or sell property or assets valued at more than $1,000 or incur debts and obligations greater than $1,000 without approval of the trustee.

Mr. Kouwe wrote:

Under the agreement, the family members cannot transfer or sell property or assets valued at more than $1,000 or incur debts and obligations greater than $1,000 without approval of Mr. Picard.

Example 3:

Mr. Efrati wrote:

They are allowed to use credit cards for necessary living expenses.
The defendants also will provide the trustees with an accounting of their expenditures, the orders say.

Mr. Kouwe wrote:

They are allowed to use credit cards for necessary living expenses.
The defendants also will provide the trustee with an accounting of their expenditures.

Example 4:

Mr. Efrati wrote:

Last year Mr. Madoff’s wife, Ruth, also agreed to an asset freeze as part of a separate trustee’s $45 million lawsuit against her.

Mr. Kouwe wrote:

Last year, Mr. Madoff’s wife, Ruth, also agreed to an asset freeze as part of a separate trustee’s $45 million lawsuit against her.

Example 5:

Mr. Efrati wrote:

According to the trustee’s lawsuit, son Andrew Madoff invested just under $1 million into his Madoff investment accounts yet withdrew $17 million through “brazenly fabricated transactions.”

Mr. Kouwe wrote:

According to the trustee’s lawsuit, Andrew Madoff placed just under $1 million into his Madoff investment accounts yet withdrew $17 million through “brazenly fabricated transactions” over the years.

Example 6:

Mr. Efrati wrote:

Peter Madoff invested $32,146 into his ccounts but redeemed more than
$16 million in similar fashion, the trustee said.

Mr. Kouwe wrote:

Peter Madoff invested $32,146 into his ccounts but redeemed more than
$16 million, the trustee claims.

The extensive use of such similar phrases, without any attribution, is extraordinary. This is not a case of involving a columnist with apparently perfect recall or a case of cryptomnesia, but one of fundamental journalistic integrity.

Clearly, we expect that The New York Times will run a correction and publically acknowledge the source of the published material– that source being The Wall Street Journal.

Yours,

Robert Thomson

CC: Clark Hoyt, Public Editor
Larry Ingrassia, Business Editor
Philip Corbett, Deputy News Editor