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Newspapers Must Learn the Value of the Link

In the coverage of New York Times writer Zachary Kouwe, who resigned recently amid accusations of plagiarism, much has been said about the demands of writing for the always-on Web, and how this might have contributed to Kouwe's missteps—something the writer himself referred to in a discussion of the incident as described by Clark Hoyt, the Times' public editor. But Reuters columnist Felix Salmon was first to put his finger on what I think is the real culprit: a lack of respect for the culture of the Web, specifically for the value and necessity of the link.

Kouwe describes in an interview with the New York Observer how he felt pressured to cover offbeat news items for the blog as they came up. He'd pull together bits and pieces of coverage from elsewhere on a story, then rewrite them into his own post or story. This, he says, is how the plagiarism occurred: He didn't keep track of which pieces of text he had pulled from somewhere else and which he had written himself. As Salmon notes, what a blogger would do in this case (at least a good blogger) is to link to other sources of material on the topic, rather than rewrite them.

"Anybody who can or would write such a thing has no place working on a blog. If it's clear who had a story first, then the move into the age of blogs has made it much easier to cite who had it first: Blogs and bloggers should be much more generous with their hat-tips and hyperlinks than any print reporter can be."

From BusinessWeek
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