20 February 2010
The paper in an editors' note on Valentines Day didn't use the p word, but it did say the editors had found "cases of extensive overlap between passages in Mr. Kouwe’s articles and other news organizations’. (The search did not turn up any indications that the articles were inaccurate.)"
Personally, I am always more saddened by reporters who copy the work of their colleagues than I am by reporters who make stuff up, Stephen-Glass style. I am more put off, you might say, by the inadequacy of imagination than by its excess. Staying true to the facts, while finding a fresh way to express them, that is always the double challenge of the non-fiction writer in general.
Not long ago it was fashionable to talk about the "death of the author." That was a literary-critical theory born on the left bank of the Seine, yet later nurtured under the shade of the elms lining the streets of New Haven, Conn. It taught that when properly deconstructred by clever critics, all texts refer to other texts -- indeed, all texts merge into one big text. Authors just disappear from the account.
Fortunately, the author seems to have been resurrected, even in academia. Now it is even more important than before that Paschal-event that authors, of all sorts, respect their own calling and that of their colleagues.
Kouwe was immediately suspended and then, on Tuesday (Mardi Gras -- two days after the Valentines Day announcement -- should we be drawing some sort of symbolic conclusions from these intruding holidays?) met with editors and union reps to discuss possible disciplinary action. Apparently, Kouwe decided to save them the trouble of further proceedings and resigned.
You can find particulars here.
Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.