WaPo scapegoating blogger

A Washington Post blogger resigned after plagiarizing others' work on two separate occasions. The copypasta, however, was done under working conditions that make the newspaper look worse than her. WaPo ombudsman Patrick Pexton takes a swipe at his employers for getting 6 traditionally-styled stories a day out of her.

On many days Flock was the only reporter filing … These are not 100-word briefs but often 500-word summaries of complicated news events… Flock made two mistakes in the past four months, which earned her two tough editor's notes disavowing her actions. …

It appears that she copied, pasted and slightly rewrote two paragraphs from [a] Discovery story. Plagiarism perhaps, but also a perpetual danger in aggregated stories. After Discovery News raised objections, Flock resigned voluntarily. She said that the mistakes were hers. She said it was only a matter of time before she made a third one; the pressures were just too great.

Katharine Zaleski, WaPo's executive director of digital news, was in hard form: "The Washington Post's standards apply every bit as much to our digital work as they do to our print edition. And our bloggers honor that." Pexton implies that Zaleski failed her, however, because there's no cultivating environment or mentoring there.

Both of them are masking the real problem. It isn't about talent cultivation and it isn't really about honoring standards. The problem is that the Washington Post wants to have the cake and eat it too. It is content-farming mountains of coverage with overworked bloggers, but is too prideful to let them bang it out using approprately short blog-post formats.

The paragraphs in question should have simply been block-quoted with a link. This would have been less work than write-through plagiarism. But the pressure is to produce items with the superficial appearance of meatier, reported news stories. So that's what they get.

And when the lie shines though because the veneer is too thin? Scapegoat the writer instead of 'fessing up to the fact that they're belatedly following in Arianna's footsteps, and can't even get that right.