Thursday, August 22, 2013

Maureen Dowd's Makes Mistakes: Should *She* Be Fired?

Maureen Dowd at Democratic Debate in Philadelp...
Maureen Dowd at Democratic Debate in Philadelphia, PA April 16, 2008 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Here's the salon article taking Dowd to task for -   more than once - "sexing up" quotes. Here's an excerpt.

Dowd has plagiarized. She has filed columns with inaccurate datelines. Both of those incidents involved Dowd passing off the writing and reporting of others — friends and assistants — as her own, uncredited. There was also the time — still, as far as I know, never explained — when an insulting and effeminizing description of Barack Obama was mysteriously scrubbed from the online version of the column.

Any single one of those errors might’ve gotten a cub reporter fired from the Times. But no non-superstar would’ve been allowed to get away with all of those mistakes* — especially the ones that seem very much like the intentional sexing up of material. Maureen Dowd has gotten away with it because she is influential and decorated. She’s a Pulitzer winner! But her influence and fame should cause her to be held to a higher standard, not a more lax one. Mistakes — and outright dishonesty — coming from someone as prominent as Dowd are worse. If a back-of-the-Metro Section news story misquotes someone, it’s bad, but the damage is limited to the people who read the story. If Maureen Dowd manufactures a quote, it can live forever. It travels. It becomes part of “the narrative.”
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Susan White said...

That’s typical. People at the top usually aren’t fired or even reprimanded for their grievous misdoings, no matter how significant they may be. If we’re talking about ethics, though (and I know we are!), she really should know better. I don’t think these were little “mistakes” so much as personal embellishments. It’s always tempting as a writer to fluff up your own pieces for dramatic effect or maybe just to make the syntax flow a little better. Dowd works for the TIMES, however, which is considered America’s premier newspaper. Like the Salon writer said, she has tremendous influence over the national narrative. With great power comes great responsibility; this is not the place for aesthetic narcissism.

If Maureen Dowd manufactures a quote, it can live forever. It travels. It becomes part of “the narrative.”

This is what bothers me the most – that these little lies and embellishments can become accepted truths within the common culture. Has Dowd perhaps lost touch with reality? Maybe she hears what she wants to hear. In that case, she’s just like any other American who reads the news.

....J.Michael Robertson said...

Excellent comment. When I use "aesthetic narcissim," I will try very hard to credit you. At some point we will talk about the ethics of changing errors such as this - how and where do you do the correction. When it's online, there is a great temptation to remove the error and ignore the fact it was ever there.