The big debate today is over Indian American journalist Fareed Zakaria’s act of plagiarism. The internationally renowned author/editor/columnist fell from grace even as he admitted to have plagiarized certain paragraphs from an article in the New Yorker, for his column in Time magazine, without duly attributing credit to the original writer.
Apart from suffering the ignominy of having his column in Time magazine, on CNN.Com, in Washington Post as also his show (Fareed Zakaria GPS) on CNN being suspended, Zakaria faces the prospect of losing the edifice of credibility he has painstakingly built around himself over the years.
As embarrassing as it is for Zakaria, his fall from grace is equally embarrassing for his viewers/readers. I have myself been a diligent viewer of Fareed Zakaria GPS over the past four years and unfailingly gained, with each episode, insights and perspectives on world politics, economics and cultural trends.
Although plagiarism is an unpardonable infraction, I wouldn’t write Zakaria off as a credible journalist. I wouldn’t even sit on judgment over his body of work although in light of his current predicament, doubts would be cast over the authenticity of his past work.
Actually, I really don’t see the need for plagiarism in journalism these days when liberally quoting from already published or telecast work, even of rival networks/newspapers, with due attribution, has become a totally accepted norm. Journalists get away with cleverly ‘compiling’ bits and pieces of other people’s work and passing it off under their own bylines, the only credit to them is of being good researchers.
If, on any given subject, I simply lift paragraphs from relevant articles from different publications giving due credit, it becomes a “researched” article although I would be taking the easy way out without doing any leg work. Ideally speaking that should be considered plagiarism too.
In the past publications and news channels gloated over “exclusive” stories/interviews while rivals simply were left wringing their hands with envy. But today, the minute one newspaper/channel breaks a story, all the others simply run with it and the originating channel/publication even sells the rights to re-broadcasting its footage.
While it is heartening to see that American journalism still follows moors of ethics and morals, I hope Zakaria’s fate would at least lead to some soul-searching among the many upstart journalists that are proliferating the media scene in India today.