Thursday, March 17th, 2011
14

Resume Bias and Plagiarism

Yesterday, when the Washington Post published a terrible and vague Editor's Note about plagiarism, I looked up the articles that they seemed to be referencing as plagiarized. (Here and here.) And then I discounted them, because of resume bias, and went looking for similar stories in the paper from someone more junior or more obviously inexperienced. After all, the reporter, Sari Horwitz, has been with the paper nearly 30 years. She is a two-time Pulitzer winner. She has a Master's from Oxford!

And the stories were about Tucson and she's from Tucson. So it didn't make any sense.

And but then, the Post named her today and published her apology, and said they'd looked at all her stories from "this year" (this calendar year?) and spot-checked some older work, and found no other evidence of plagiarism. (I would go a little deeper? But, sure, I know, who has time.)

So she's been suspended for three months, and not fired—because they have both familiarity bias and probably resume bias too. (Also: it would be stupid to fire her anyway.)

But in her apology, she touches on neither how or why it happened, and that's something I'd love to know. How do you end up with 15 paragraphs of someone's story in your own? That's literally impossible to execute as an "oh my sources document got mixed up in my story" maneuver. (I think so, at least? I mean, maybe someday it'll happen to me! Everyone is afraid of doing something stupid.) So but how? It's either a cry for help, a statement of anger at the institution or the act of a person so preoccupied with other things that she no longer is even thinking about her job. In plagiarism cases we so rarely understand why it happened, and this is frustrating, because we almost have a window into finding out.

14 Comments / Post A Comment

This is like the time Spinderella stabbed me with her Treo.

Moff (#28)

This really deserves more likes. #nostalgia

boyofdestiny (#1,243)

When potential employers discard my resume because it's flimsy and unimpressive, is this resume bias? Also, is resume bias actionable? It's really my last hope.

SidAndFinancy (#4,328)

Three-time Pulitzer winner.

This is shocking, and I can't believe they didn't can her.

Peteykins (#1,916)

Sari Horwitz was my older brother's prom date!

Um… well, just thought I'd throw that out there.

jfruh (#713)

Did she wear an original dress? How can we know for sure, now?

Jasmine (#8)

"How do you end up with 15 paragraphs of someone's story in your own?"

You just don't. Maybe, maybe if you were submitting a 400 page thesis something like this might slip in as you're organizing your copious notes. But a newspaper article? Where you're conscious of every word you're using? Awful.

Screen Name (#2,416)

This is like the time Spinderella stabbed me with her Treo.

When potential employers discard my resume because it's flimsy and unimpressive, is this resume bias? Also, is resume bias actionable? It's really my last hope.

Three-time Pulitzer winner.

This is shocking, and I can't believe they didn't can her.
Sari Horwitz was my older brother's prom date!

Um… well, just thought I'd throw that out there.

boyofdestiny (#1,243)

Being plagiarized by Screen Name is my greatest literary achievement so far.

Moff (#28)

From their note about the suspension:

Plagiarism has long been one of the most serious ethical violations in journalism.

Whereas mindlessly writing down government officials' words and passing them off as your own work — well, that, unfortunately, has long been considered simply "journalism."

Aatom (#74)

I don't have anything new to add here.

hugesunglasses (#2,696)

She would have been fired, but Katharine Weymouth was worried about plagiarizing Donald Trump.

ep (#8,509)

I tend to think that the people most likely to be plagiarists are those who are dishonest, deceitful, and selfish by nature. Because there is absolutely no justification for it, the plagiarist betrays that she in herself does not even care that it's wrong. Call it symptomatic of a kind of blindness or personality disorder.

andj (#1,074)

When does concern about plagiarism reach moral panic levels, do you think?

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