Andrew Breitbart: “I Jerk”, Maureen Dowd: Excuses, Excuses

Andrew Breitbart fessed up in a way only someone in New Media fesses up: fully, completely, and on the editorial page of a rather progressive Old Media paper, the Washington Times. I won’t reiterate his shame here. You can read it for yourself.

Anyone who writes for a living makes mistakes. Some fall into the category of physical errors, as my high school basketball coach delineated them. That is, typos, misspellings, usage errors, wrong details written in haste or not caught by an editor. For bloggers, that would be errors not caught by oneself, since the blogger picks the story, writes the story, fact-checks the story, edits the story and publishes the story. A blogger’s reputation depends on being right on all counts most of the time. Still, physical errors are forgivable.

The other category of mistakes my coach found unforgivable. These were mental errors and for mental errors we were punished. Severely. Those types of errors were the ones, that repeated often enough, would cost a game. Mental errors included things like passing the ball to where the player was, instead of where she was going to be. Mental errors included not blocking out, failing to collapse on help defense, failing to turn the ball handler toward the center of the court, poor execution on a press or any offense. Basically, mental errors meant violating the foundational principles, the basics, or failing to do them.

A mental error in writing would be plagiarizing. That is, if I remember correctly, using more than three words together that belong to someone else and failing to give attribution. Using a whole paragraph? Well, that’s plagiarizing on crack. That’s akin to putting the ball in the opposite team’s basket. It’s just so stupid that even 20 quarter-courts might not impress upon the dummy the error of his ways. That is, perhaps the player shouldn’t be playing. At. All.

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Now, some errors like that grieve the one who made the mistake so completely, that he writes a mea culpa publicly like Andrew Breitbart did (not that Andrew plagiarized–his error was more physical and he still corrected it big time). In my own case, I recently got some significant details about the falling Twin Towers wrong in a post. An angry reader corrected me and I put the correction, bolded, at the top of the post for all to see. It’s one of the things I like about blogging–corrections aren’t buried on page 18. They are front and center.

Maureen Dowd should be grieved and embarrassed by her plagiarizing Josh Marshall which was exposed over the weekend. This was no small sentence she lifted. She stole a whole paragraph. Worse, rather than owning it, she has made excuses for her misdeed. How very typically Old Media. How very typically elite. How very typically liberal.

The Old Media is dying because it is unresponsive and monolithic. It is dying because consumers have the impression that they’re biased and unaccountable. Maureen Dowd’s plagiarism and limp excuse for her mistake encapsulate why the Old Media is withering into irrelevance.

When people suspect one shades the truth, and, once caught in a mistake, the response is to obfuscate, the trust dissolves. That’s where Maureen Dowd, and by extension, the New York Times finds itself. Oh, and the NYT, deleted comments they didn’t like. How very Old Media, too.

I don’t think it’s an accident that Andrew Breitbart’s New Media star is rising. He’s establishing himself as a trusted news source with personal integrity. I don’t think it’s an accident that the Old Media’s star is falling. They can’t be trusted, even when caught red-handed, to do the right thing.

Cross-posted at

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