Plagiarism fallout in Texas

The Texas press has picked up on the Bulletin plagiarism scandal, and some of the facts from the small paper’s side have emerged.

The Houston Chronicle reported that the Bulletin’s publisher, Mike Ladyman said he “didn’t take Rosen more seriously because he didn’t realize the extent of the allegations.” The Chronicle’s article also lets us know that the accused plagiarist, Mark Williams, was a freelancer who had worked for the Bulletin for the past six years.

Now, according to the Houston Press, the Montgomery County paper will be shutting down for the time being, partially thanks to the dozens of nasty e-mails publisher Ladyman has received. Ladyman told the Press about his paper, “It’s dead right now. I’m not bringing out another issue. I’ll just close it up.”

Ladyman went on in the Press interview to say that Slate writer Jody Rosen’s article about the plagiarism was “an attack, an attention-grabbing hatchet job” and that Rosen never showed him more than the first three examples of plagiarism before publishing the Slate article.

Ladyman described the circumstances around Rosen’s accusations from his point of view, saying that he was on a deadline when Rosen first called and could not talk for as long as Rosen wanted. Later, when Ladyman took the examples of plagiarism to Williams, the accused writer told his publisher that he had simply copied material he’d received in press releases. “I don’t know if I believed him fully,” Ladyman told the Press.

Now, and I hate to borrow too much from one source, especially given the nature of the story, the Press also published a letter written by Williams in response to Rosen’s accusations.

You have done an exemplary job of exposing the seedy underbelly of duplicitous small town weekly newspapers and the evil doers that run them. You have indeed brought us to our knees

…[Y]ou have most definitely garnered the attention of the bloggers that you evidently crave in abundance with this manufactured scandal. So my advice, if I may offer a small slice, is to enjoy the spotlight while it is yours — have yourself a ball! You are the victor, so do enjoy the spoils.

…It must have taken years of seasoned investigative know-how to push me off my lofty perch. It takes a dogged, intrepid journalist to expose the alleged wrongdoings of a 44-year-old college dropout who drifted from one lousy media job to another for 20 years; it takes courage to debase someone with a mouthful of cut-rate dentures who, up until 2007, lived in his parents’ home for seven years due to near-fatal bouts of clinical depression; it takes a journalist of a certain caliber to torpedo a pathetic hack who has barely squeezed out a living for nearly a decade at seven cents a word.

He goes on to say that Bulletin has done some good work in its time, such as keeping “a hateful rogue element of the local Republican Party from taking control of our county library system and ripping the Constitution to shreds.” Apparently that justifies immoral journalistic practices. I guess you have to break a few eggs, right?

Good grief, Williams. Even a 20-year veteran hack should know the difference between what words of a press release you can use and which ones you can’t. And, by god, depression or not — and especially after your little diatribe about your egalitarian aims — lazy journalism is never, ever OK.

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