WASHINGTON — Former New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson said she would have “dressed down” a reporter who lifted passages without attribution like she did for her new book — but wouldn’t have fired them.
Accused of plagiarism, Abramson remained on the defensive during a speech at the National Press Club on Thursday and claimed her journalism students at Harvard aren’t upset at her actions.
“I don’t think I would have fired a reporter for this,” Abramson said. “I certainly would have called them in, dressed them down. There would have been a correction and an editor’s note and a very stiff talking to. But this is not the same as (being) on deadline (and) stealing someone else’s quote from a news story and using it.”
Journalism students are routinely failed for plagiarism and professional reporters are canned when they’ve made up sources or stolen material.
But Abramson said her Ivy League students have been understanding of her mistakes in her new book, “Merchants of Truth.”
“They asked me great questions. But hard on me in terms of being angry? No,” she said of her students.
Abramson claimed she lifted entire paragraphs from other sources unintentionally.
“I said my book has 835 footnotes, it should have, obviously, six more,” Abramson said of six passages in question. “…I feel heartsick over this. And I’m very sorry for it.”
The passages have since been corrected in reprints and e-books, but she rejected any notion that the first printing of her book should be recalled.
“No, I don’t,” she said when asked if the book should be pulled. “It’s a great book.”
The embattled former editor initially responded to the plagiarism allegations by accusing Vice staff — who were raising the complaints — of “waging an oppo campaign” against her.
Abramson acknowledged her credibility has taken a hit.
“I see this as a serious stain on my reputation,” she said. “But these are such few words in the scheme of the book. It was unintentional.”
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