Journal’s Thomson to Times’ Keller: ‘A Case of ... Fundamental Journalistic Integrity’

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Thomson and Keller. Photo: Tom Stoddart/Mark Wilson/Getty

Today, the New York Times ran a remarkable editor's note acknowledging that Zachery Kouwe, a business reporter for the paper's Dealbook blog, had apparently plagiarized several stories from The Wall Street Journal and other news outlets. The note said that after a review, the paper found "extensive overlap between passages in Mr. Kouwe’s articles and other news organizations."

The Times said its investigation was sparked after "editors at the Wall Street Journal" alerted Times brass to Kouwe's alleged transgressions.

In fact, the Journal's demand for action came directly from the paper's editor-in-chief, Robert Thomson. This morning, Daily Intel got its hands on a February 12 letter written by Thomson to Times executive editor Bill Keller that prompted the plagiarism investigation.

In the letter — which was also copied to Times business editor (and former Journal top editor) Larry Ingrassia, public editor Clark Hoyt, and standards editor Phil Corbett — Thomson said "I'm writing to alert you to a case of apparent plagiarism in the New York Times." Thomson included six examples of Kouwe's seemingly lifted text and concluded: "The extensive use of such similar phrases, without attribution, is extraordinary. This is not a case of a columnist with apparently perfect recall or cryptomnesia, but one of fundamental journalistic integrity."

Kouwe was hired away from the New York Post, where he was known for aggressive Wall Street coverage, by the Times in November 2008 to work for Andrew Ross Sorkin on Dealbook.

Thomson and Keller have gone back and forth before. In December, Times media columnist David Carr wrote a critical column alleging the Journal is leaning to the right under its new owner, Rupert Murdoch. Upon reading Carr's piece, Thomson issued a statement accusing Keller of writing a letter to a journalism award committee that undermined the Journal's entry into the competition.

With about a month to go until the Journal launches its New York metro section, we're sure this latest fracas won't help relations.

To read a PDF of Thomson's complete letter, click here.