On Friday, Fox News published a story on its website that included a paragraph nearly identical to one that appeared in an earlier Politico story about how the automatic budget cuts would affect government jobs and programs moving forward. The Politico story, written by Darren Samuelsohn and Ginger Gibson, was published on March 1 at 4:33 a.m. The Fox News story was also published on March 1, and does not have a time stamp on it (or a byline), but media watchdog Jim Romenesko, who first revealed the duplication, said on his blog that the Fox News sequestration story appeared “later in the day,” which seems likely enough, given that the Politico story was published before dawn.
Romenseko published the original and the offending paragraph on his blog. The paragraphs are nearly identical, save the placement of one adverb. Romenesko tweeted the blog post Monday with a message directed at the conservative news outlet: “Dear Fox News: I know we're not best of friends, but any chance I can get a comment on this?” Romenesko said in the post that he had reached out to Fox News spokesperson Ashley Nerz for comment.
Though we can only speculate at this point, it appears that this duplication, while meeting the standard definition of plagiarism, was a result of sloppy aggregating – a journalistic violation increasingly common within the hyper-competitive 24-hour news cycle. In fact, Politico found itself on the wrong side of a similar accusation in 2011, when New York Times reporter Susan Stellin noticed similarities between her work and that of Politico reporter Kendra Marr. After Stellin brought the issue to the attention of Marr’s editors, an investigation revealed a half-dozen incidences of inadequate attribution, and Marr resigned.
In an announcement of the resignation on Politico's website, editors John F. Harris and Jim VandeHei avoided the word 'plagiarism' and commended Marr for her contributions to Politico. "None of these examples [of duplication] represented invention of quotes, scenes, or other material," they said. "Our inquiry did conclude that there had been an unacceptable violation of our journalistic standards. Material published in our pages borrowed from the work of others, without attribution, in ways which we cannot defend and will not tolerate."
If it turns out that Fox News is guilty of lifting passages, we're guessing Politico won't come down too hard on them.
Update: Fox News has since taken down the story in question, putting in it's place an editor's note that reads: "Due to a reporting error, a March 1 FoxNews.com story on the timing and impact of the sequestration cuts used information from an internal research document that contained material previously published by other news organizations. The story did not properly credit the sources of that material, and has subsequently been removed from FoxNews.com.
"The uncredited use of the material was unintentional, and FoxNews.com regrets the error."