Editor at Major Newspaper Calls Quote from Texas Watchdog “puzzling” and “highly questionable”

I recently emailed an editor at a large daily newspaper about the Texas Watchdog quote, and received this response:

To re-use a quote that was published somewhere else isn’t plagiarism, but they should have credited the place that got the quote. It’s considered plagiarizing to run parts of stories (non-quotes) from another publication and try to pass that off as your own reporting/work. Quotes are OK to be shared, but it’s ethical to credit the place that got them. So, the second place to run the quote should have said:

“Texas A&M has one of the finest business schools in the country, and yet we can’t figure out how to in-house save money out of our department,” Draper told the Texas Tribune.

The real puzzling part to me is that the Watchdog added “with a metaphorical scratch of the head” to that attribution, which indicates that its reporter was there to get the quote. Could there have been two reporters talking to the guy at once? Maybe. Was it a news conference? Possibly. If so, then it was OK for them to run it and add the shake of the head and that’s that. But if not, to add that to the attribution when they weren’t even there … that seems highly questionable to me.

As you can see in my previous post, no defense was offered from the Texas Watchdog founder regarding the “scratch of the head” addition, so only time can tell what to make of it.
The editor who provided the above quote wishes to remain anonymous, making them my first ever anonymous source.  I have mixed feelings about using an anonymous source, especially since I don’t have the reputation/history to provide enough credibility for it to mean much, and also since I just criticized Mr. Lisheron’s acceptance of the truth of an anonymous source (with a large potential for conflict of interest) in the story in question, but rest assured the quote is real and the only potential conflict of interest in this case (me wanting to look right) isn’t that big.

One author of the original article was also emailed, as well as CJR – both of which have not yet responded, which may speak to the subtlety of Mr. Lisheron’s violation or the shared understanding among journalists of the many difficulties in the field/many ways to mix things up. Or maybe even the collegial feelings journalists have for each other.  Or maybe they haven’t had time to respond.

In the mean time, readers here are encouraged to respond.

I look forward to your comments.


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