New York Times gets down, plagiarizes

mp_20030420_2.jpg Slate.com got the latest scoop.A New York Times story from last Saturday on paco, an illicit drug that is apparently causing all sorts of havoc in Argentina, lifted two lines from a story that ran in the Miami Herald, more than a year and a half later from August 2006.In the Herald it ran as follows:

Paco is highly addictive because its effect is so short—a couple of minutes—and so intense that many users resort to smoking 20 to 50 cigarettes a day to try to make its effects linger. 

Paco is even more toxic than crack cocaine because it is made mostly of solvents and chemicals, with just a dab of cocaine, said Jim Hall, executive director of Up Front Drug Information Center, a Miami nonprofit that has been tracking cocaine abuse for more than two decades.”

 In the Times, 18 months later, it ran as follows:

Paco is highly addictive because its high lasts just a few minutes—and is so intense that many users smoke 20 to 50 paco cigarettes a day to try to make its effects linger. Paco is even more toxic than crack cocaine because it is made mostly of solvents and chemicals like kerosene, with just a dab of cocaine, Argentine and Brazilian drug enforcement officials said.” 

Alexei Barrionuevo, the New York Times correspondent who wrote the piece, is likely in a lot of trouble. But, don’t worry. He will come out with a statement about how the high pressure environment of his position – in writing a story that came in damn near 2 years after another, and even later than other reports on paco and its effects – caused the slip.I didn’t spot this on Regret The Error, a blog devoted to newspaper errors, and, beyond Slate, the only news I’ve heard of it is in an Editor’s note at the bottom of the piece in question online. It reads as follows: 

A front-page article on Saturday described a cocaine epidemic in Argentina fed by the consumption of paco, an addictive smokable cocaine residue. The article included an explanatory paragraph about paco’s addictive power and toxicity that repeated material from a 2006 article published in The Miami Herald, without attributing it to the newspaper. The correspondent, who had done his own research with Argentine and Brazilian officials on the drug and its effects, should have summarized it in his own words, or credited The Herald.” 

Of course, this comes on the heels of the assassin job done to John  McCain over a relationship with a lobbyist. Most of sense don’t criticize the paper’s thorough review of McCain’s contradictory relationship with special interest, being the king of Campaign Finance Reform.To be fair, the piece carefully rehashed McCain’s relationship with the younger, female lobbyist, though the paper was roundly criticized for impotently sitting on the story, if not out of political vengeance than out of sheer mismanagement. Some on the right have suggested the timing is only beneficial, a ‘liberal’ media takes a swing at the presumptive candidate of the right. What’s more, it comes well before there is even a clear Democratic candidate who can use the report as an attack.