Shaun King and the Journalists Who’ve Never Heard of Editors

Shaun KingShaun King is a columnist for The New York Daily News. He’s as much of an activist as he is a writer. I think he got his start at Daily Kos and he tends to be a polarizing figure in the journalistic community because, of course, no one is supposed to have opinions — at least on the left. So he was a ripe target on Tuesday when journalists on Twitter went crazy accusing him of plagiarism.

Kate Briquelet at The Daily Beast had earlier in the day published, Cops Taunted Black Veteran as He Died. Shaun King did what he does: he wrote his own article based on Briquelet’s reporting. But her name wasn’t mentioned in the article and two paragraphs from her article were put in King’s article without even quotation marks. Glenn Greenwald has the whole story, False Plagiarism Accusation Against Shaun King Shows Dangers of Online Mob Journalism.

When I heard the primary evidence, I knew what had happened. But that’s probably because I am an editor. Writers who work at something like the Daily News don’t just plop their words onto the page. An act of plagiarism this obvious is almost certainly an error — and usually an error of the editor, not the writer. True, there are cases like CJ Werleman, but his most egregious acts of plagiarism were on his personal blog, long before anyone had heard of him. And regardless, people don’t plagiarize highly publicized pieces that just came out.

“Refusing to apologize and instead mocking King… became the new way to sit at the cool kids’ table.” —Glenn Greenwald

Now you may not know all that, but certainly the journalists who pushed this story of Shaun King’s supposed plagiarism do. They work in the business. They know how things go. In fact, one of the great recreational activities of writers is complaining about what editors did to their brilliant prose. So they knew better and this does not speak well of them.

I think that Greenwald was exactly right when he wrote that piling on Shaun King about plagiarism was “the new way to sit at the cool kids’ table.” And that, of course, brings me back to how reporters during the 2000 presidential campaign went easy on Bush and hard on Gore, because the latter wasn’t “cool” and didn’t have such tasty snacks on his plane. You should never underestimate this side of writers. Being even a decent writer is something you only become by spending a lot of time alone. It isn’t like getting good on guitar by playing in a band. So professional writers are usually nerds, but without any of the cool things that go along with nerd culture.

But there’s another side to this. I suspect there wouldn’t have been such rush to judgment if Shaun King were a conservative. Just look at the ridiculously respectful hearings that were granted to actual journalist frauds like James O’Keefe and David Daleiden. Apparently, liberals are guilty until proven innocent and conservatives are innocent until at least 80% of the nation is convinced they’re guilty.

According to CNN Money, the editor in question has been fired. The New York Daily News editor-in-chief said that the editor had made a “series of egregious and inexplicable errors.” It makes me wonder though. This is easy stuff. Why did the Daily News hire such an incompetent? It’s probably for the same reason they would never hire me. The editor probably had the right credentials and had lived a very boring life. No wonder we have such a dependably bad Fourth Estate.

14 thoughts on “Shaun King and the Journalists Who’ve Never Heard of Editors

  1. All the people I heard talking about this were chortling because they find Shaun King to be an insufferable jerk.

    • I don’t know anything about him — having never seen him even interviewed. But I’ve always gotten the impression that Glenn Greenwald would be a really tedious guy to be around (he seems to have no sense of humor), but I am dearly glad that the world has him. If everyone were as effortlessly charming and I, the world would never improve!

      • I have seen some of King’s tweets. He is…as they described him. He did some good work from what I understand for BLM though so like Greenwald, not all bad.

        • This is kind of like the opposite of the “sad that Scalia died” issue. I doesn’t matter in the least that I wouldn’t want to hang out with Greenwald, given that I’m not in a position to do so. I know his writing and it’s important. I suppose tweets are something different, but no one is forced to follow him. The only reason I can stand Twitter at all is because I block anyone who annoys me twice. So watch out! :-)

          • I annoy you all the time. I am surprised you haven’t kicked me off your blog already.
            I think it is the cookie bribes.

            • Not really. Certainly not as much as I annoy you. But I was talking about Twitter. I never kick anyone off here. But if the blog gets more popular, I might have to start policing people if they are jerks to other commenters. They can be jerks to me. That’s what comments are for!

              • Moderating is the worst part of running a blog from what I understand. Have you seen a spike in popularity that needs some Don Quixote to calm it down?

                • The anti-spam tools are truly amazing. Almost nothing gets through here. I don’t remember the last time I had to trash a comment. Even at my day job (where the website is huge and gets probably 100 times as much spam), we only get maybe one per day that gets through to moderation. But in the old days, it was so bad that I actually turned comments off for a while.

                  • i noticed when going through old posts. I also am impressed with my typing ability with an ice cream cone in my hand.

                    • You are making no sense. But I’m in a bad mood because of my day job.

                    • I am sorry to hear that. I was saying when I went through some of your old posts, I could write comments on some but not all.

                      And I wrote the original comment with an ice cream cone in my hand so I was very impressed with myself.

                    • One hand typing alone is impressive. I’ve been practicing it, though. I figure if Ted Cruz becomes president, they will come up with a justification for cutting off one of my hands.

                    • That is the thing, I wrote it with BOTH hands. That makes me the mistress of two handed typing with ice cream cones in hand.

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