Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Chicago Tribune dodges our plagiarism complaint

Here we go again!

A year and half ago, we tried to get the New York Times to admit they'd made a mistake when one of their reporters placed producers for A Current Affair at a movie premiere-- six months after the show had been canceled! Of course, the polite assistant to the managing editor split hairs and limboed around a correction, stating with an apparent straight face that "the first part of this sentence is written in the conditional tense... the second part goes on to describe what happened..."

Now, after the blatant plagiarism of Our Man Elli in Israel's August 28th Ken Holtzman story by Chicago Tribune reporter Joel Greenberg, we're getting the same soft shoe shuffle from the stately midwestern journos of the Second City. It began when we emailed every Tribune editor whose address we could find on the paper's staff email page (and we salute them for having that page):
Dear Madames and Sirs,

On September 16th, one Joel Greenberg, your reporter in Israel, filed a story in the Chicago Tribune that lifted directly from a story, written by Israeli Broadcasting Authority correspondent Elli Wohlgelernter, that had been posted on our website a month earlier.

Here are two links that will lead to the story in question: (1) and (2).

We would like a correction and/or an acknowledgment of the plagiarism.

Thank you.
The starched shirts are always very polite. We got a reply within hours. But oy, what a reply:
My name is Tim McNulty and I am the public editor at the Chicago Tribune.

In your message, you said that you posted a story on July 20 and attributed it to the Israeli Web portal Walla!

On September 17 (not the 16th), we ran a story and attributed it to the Israeli Web portal Walla!

If both stories were properly attributed to the original source, I don't understand your claim.


Tim McNulty
We replied in kind:
Dear Mr. McNulty,

Thank you for your swift reply.

The article by Mr. Greenberg which was dated Sept 16 on (1) was lifted from Elli Wohlgelernter's article that first appeared on on August 28 (2).

Mr. Wohlgelernter translated the quotes from Hebrew, and a comparison of the two articles shows that Mr. Greenberg simply collapsed Mr. Wohlgelernter's story into his own story more than two weeks later.

See a comparison here: (3).

Other journalists, attorneys and watchdog sites agree that this is a case where attribution should have been given to Mr. Wohlgelernter, as his story had caused great controversy for more than two weeks before Mr. Greenberg copied it.

We would appreciate a clarification or correction.
The Chicago-based media watchdog Jim Romenesko has pointedly ignored our complaint (now that his site is spomsored by a j-school, he sneers at the word "tabloid"), but others are paying heed and watching developments closely.

As are we.

We'll keep you posted.

(NOTE: The Public Editor "acts as mediator between the paper and the public.")

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