New Yorker editor David Remnick responds to Malcolm Gladwell exposé

By Jeremy Barr
Dec. 11, 2014
Capital |

New Yorker editor David Remnick responded, at length, to an investigation—published this morning—into the work of New Yorker writer Malcolm Gladwell.

The proprietors of media blog Our Bad Media, who write under the pseudonyms "@blippoblappo" and "@crushingbort," previously investigated the work of former Buzzfeed staffer Benny Johnson, and Fareed Zakaria, before setting their sights on Gladwell.

Of Gladwell's New Yorker work, the two wrote: "After reviewing a very small sample of his articles from the last few years, we’ve found a few that lifted quotes and other material without attribution. One column in particular appears to have lifted all of its material on a historic civil rights protest from one book written 40 years earlier."

Asked for the magazine's response, Capital was provided the following statement from Remnick:

"The issue is not really about Malcolm. And, to be clear, it isn't about plagiarism. The issue is an ongoing editorial challenge known to writers and editors everywhere—to what extent should a piece of journalism, which doesn't have the apparatus of academic footnotes, credit secondary sources? It's an issue that can get complicated when there are many sources with overlapping information. There are cases where the details of an episode have passed into history and are widespread in the literature. There are cases that involve a unique source. We try to make judgments about source attribution with fairness and in good faith. But we don't always get it right. In retrospect, for example, we should have credited Miles Wolff's 1970 book about Greensboro, because it's central to our understanding of those events. We sometimes fall short, but our hope is always to give readers and sources the consideration they deserve."

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