Saturday, August 11, 2012

Fareed Zakaria borrowed from me too - on CNN

In wake of the news regarding Fareed Zakaria’s plagiarism suspension from Time and CNN, I was reminded of a feeling that I had last year: he borrowed from me too.

In October 2011, I filed a three-part report about Argentina’s economy for CNN. My three (1, 2, 3 ) video reports and subsequent article -- all of which I conceived, pitched, reported, wrote and produced on my own -- served as a preview to the October 23, 2011 presidential election in Argentina, which incumbent President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner won in a landslide

A week later, on October 30, 2011, Fareed Zakaria aired a report about Argentina on his CNN show “GPS.” 

After watching his video column, and reading the text article published on, I couldn't help but feel that Zakaria had borrowed heavily from my original reporting. Some phrases in his report were lifted nearly verbatim from the scripts of my TV packages, and examples and anecdotes of mine were repeated too -- without attribution. Moreover, some of the exact video sequences used in my reports appeared in his too.

I had spoken on the phone with a "GPS" producer in New York a few days prior to October 30th, and I passed the links to my reports and shared some stories and insights with him, so I knew that Zakaria was going to speak about Argentina on his show, but I was surprised at the extent of which he had borrowed from my reporting.

Granted, all of these stories aired on CNN, but I don't think CNN -- or any other media outlet -- would encourage or tolerate such borrowing from within its own ranks without giving proper credit. 

At the time, I expressed this concern to some colleagues and family, but I did not pursue the matter. Given the recent developments questioning Zakaria's reporting, I thought it made sense to bring it up now.

I am not suggesting that this is full-on plagiarism, but the similarities are undoubtedly there. 

Some examples:

1. Byrnes:
"In December 2001, Argentina defaulted on $100 billion in debt -- the largest default in history. The move ushered in an era of utter chaos: five presidents in two weeks, cash and food shortages, deadly riots and dire poverty."

"In December of 2001, it declared the largest debt default in history, sparking a period of all-out chaos - there were five presidents in just two weeks."

"And it was disastrous for the Argentine people: many in the middle class had their entire bank savings wiped out, leading to deadly riots and widespread poverty."

2. Byrnes:
"While people in the U.S. and Europe are tightening their belts, Argentines are partying. Restaurants and nightclubs are packed nightly. Apartment sales are soaring. International rock stars, like Red Hot Chili Peppers, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry and Ricky Martin have all played to capacity crowds here in recent weeks."

"People are partying - nightclubs and restaurants are packed; and rockstars from all over the world are adding Buenos Aires to their list of must-tour cities."

3. Byrnes:
"According to analysts, the crash occurred because of Argentina's enormous debt load, high public spending and overvalued currency. Greece now carries similar burdens, which has led some observers to suggest that Greece should follow Argentina's example and default and devalue."

"They have done well to emerge from it, helped especially by the devaluation of their currency. (If only Greece and Italy had that option, there would be no Euro crisis.)"

4. Byrnes:
"But Argentina's sustained economic growth has come with a cost: inflation. Officially, inflation in Argentina is around 9 percent annually, but according to various analysts and many Argentines, it is a nearly three times that number."

"But the success of Argentina's comeback may also be blinding the country to a build up of problems. Loose money, large subsidies and a cheap currency are leading to inflation. While Kirchner's administration puts the figure around 9%, that number is widely regarded to be doctored. Reliable private estimates put it closer to 25%."

5. Byrnes:
"According to watchdog group Global Trade Alert, Argentina has taken 14 protectionist measures over the last three months, more than Brazil, India and China combined."

"While the remedy to that is structural reform, Kirchner has instead resorted to crude protectionism. And external headwinds are on the way - a global slowdown will mean lower incomes from agriculture and reduced demand from China and Brazil."

Here are my three video reports (on left) and the text article:

And here is Fareed Zakaria’s video/article:

What do you think?

FYI, This is not the first time my work has been lifted. In 2008, the New York Times Travel section plagiarized an article I wrote about Ex-Pats living in Buenos Aires. 

Where was my article published? Newsweek International.

Who was the editor of Newsweek International at that time? Fareed Zakaria. 

The New York Times never ran a correction, and to the best of my knowledge, Newsweek International editors didn't pursue one. 


SaltShaker said...

It's a tough one. There's no question that the info is the same, and even similar phrasing. At the same time, you're kind of the source on the ground here - what else is he going to say? He's not going to give out contradictory info. But yes, you should have been credited, if not by him, at least in followup on the website by CNN.

It's a regular problem. I've found whole paragraphs lifted from my blog, which isn't even journalistic in intent, republished in various magazines and newspapers. I've published food and wine articles in one magazine only to find sections (and in one case the entire article) republished in another under someone else's byline. Not once, not even in the case of the entire article, have I ever gotten so much as an apology or any notice of credit.

At some point I think it comes down to you either put your energy and time into pursuing it on a legal basis, which would likely make you a pariah in the industry, or just accepting that it happens and putting your energy and time into doing the best work you can. People will notice, and a quiet word here and there to those "in power" probably will accomplish more in the long run than going on the attack.

Anonymous said...

pretty generic information, seems like a stretch. You're both paraphrasing general information about a situation. Had you gotten a particularly unique quote from a specific source or something otherwise singular you could have a case, otherwise it's just two people covering a topic at around the same time, so there's likely to be an overlap of ideas.

Anonymous said...

I think items 1 and 2 are fishy - especially the ordering and choices of the words "chaos" and "partying."

Based on your examples my take is that your reporting was "mixed" with some other sources and then cut and pasted together sans any credits. Someone on a another blog suggested this could be the sloppy work of interns / assistants - which sounds plausible albeit possibly even more damning for a public "intellectual" than plagiarism (e.g. Doris Kearns Goodwin still has a career) which may explain why Fareed is apologizing and may be counting on it to go away.

Anonymous said...

Anon #2 you are missing the critical point clearly stated- it is not generic information. CNN spoke contacted him before the story. They had his information, then it was obviously loosely repackaged with snippets taken verbatim. I don't know what school you went to, but where I come from this is unethical behavior.

Anonymous said...

Without a doubt he stole his work. I would have never gotten away with this level of stealing in college unless I attributed passages in footnotes. To the anonymous idiot, yeah, he could have done something. It's called giving credit to your source. For example, Fareed Zakaria could have said, according to blah blah blah, and then put the passages he wants to use as evidence in quotes.

This doesn't surprise me. Fareed Zakaria is another clown psuedo-intellectual that dumb people think is smart. He's never had an original thought in his life. No surprise that he is a lazy, dishonest, intellectual charlatan.

Anonymous said...

since when did cnn, fox, msnbc have a moral compass....surely you are smoking crack. hiring eliot spitz-her, chelsea clinton and othe such underwhelming, underworthy talking heads is clear that they embrace substandard hosts.

let him have his job back..he can't be any worse then spitzor sticking his wick in a woman not his wife and paying for the privilege to do

Anonymous said...

Excuse me, Zakaria has a PhD. from Harvard no less. Shame on him. I also have a PhD. and though it be from lowly Iowa, the principle that to plagiarizer leads to academic death was well drilled into me. I cannot believe that the faculty didn't sing the same tone at Harvard. What is so sad is that he could have quoted the original author and then discussed his, Zakaria's, agreement or disagreement. Other people than Fareed with similar credentials have resigned immediately when in similar circumstance. He should be given the opportunity to do the same. However, if after a reasonable amount of time, say a week, he doesn't do the honorable thing, then he needs to be sacked. He certainly will never regain his integrity and credibility at CNN.

Anonymous said...

holy moly. is this serious? dude, not only did zakaria not steal from you, but it's now highly unlikely that CNN will give you any freelance work in the future.

dirk said...

It seems like this is going to become more and more common as good quality blogs rise to the top, it's just too tempting for a reporter with a tight deadline.

Angelica said...

I hope that at least they start giving all the credit to good bloggers or offer them jobs if it starts being more and more common, happy holydays from my Argentina Apartments!