Sunday, March 09, 2008

Would it KILL the NY Times to Get a Brazil Correspondent Who Is Professionally Ethical?

I often complained about the job Larry Rohter used to do as the Brazil correpondent for the NY Times, often blatantly showing his anti-Lula partisanship and getting the basic facts of a story wrong. I celebrated when Rohter was replaced, even wishing that "Now, maybe we'll finally get somebody competent to report on Brazil for the Times (even if it is not permanent)."

Well, apparently I was wishing for way too much. Alexei Barrionuevo, the new Brazil correspondent for the Times, has apparently plagiarized from other newspaper sources not once, but twice, with both coming to surface in the last two weeks. First, in late February, he wrote this piece on the paco (smokeable cocaine) crisis in Argentina, all the while sampling freely from articles from 2006 in the Christian Science Monitor and the Miami Herald (for a comparison of Barrionuevo's "work" and the previous reports, see this article here.) Barrionuevo said he must have "accidentally" mixed reports when working on his own material.

However, just this week, it was revealed that Barrionuevo apparently had plagiarized previously, copying a report on mad cow restrictions from Bloomberg news. As the Slate article comments, it's hard to believe you "accidentally" mixed your sources when you've done it more than once, with your reports looking strikingly like somebody else's work. This shouldn't even have to be said, particularly for a correspondent at the Times, but nonetheless, it apparently and unfortunately has to be said again: plagiarism is unacceptable (and Shafer offers 8 reasons why plagiarism is unacceptable, and while some of them are a little professionally self-absorbed, they are still worth remembering, even if few people really care anymore).

Now, would it be so damn difficult for the Times to get a Brazil correspondent who both knows what she/he is doing AND is ethical??? I'm not a journalist, so maybe I missed some valuable lessons in journalism classes I never took, but it strikes me that journalists have two basic obligations that should come before everything else when reporting: get the basic facts right, and don't plagiarize. Now, the Times has replaced a man who couldn't get the basic facts right with one who's plagiarizing. Ridiculous.