CBS’s New Scandal – Katiegate


Newsweek reports on the latest black eye for the Tiffany network, Katie Couric’s plagarism scandal.

April 10, 2007 – CBS certainly got something different than it bargained for when it stole America’s Sweetheart from the “Today” show last year. Not only has Couric failed to draw her loyal fans to her new network: “CBS Evening News with Katie Couric” remains a distant third behind NBC and ABC. Now, Couric is embroiled in an embarrassing flap with The Wall Street Journal over plagiarism, the ultimate journalistic sin.

The problems began when an April 4 installment of “Katie Couric’s Notebook”–a daily essay by the anchor that appears in video and audio form on CBS News’ Web site, among other places–was uncomfortably close to musings by Wall Street Journal columnist Jeffrey Zaslow on the fading allure of library books. Opining in his March 15 “Moving On” column headlined “Of the Places You’ll Go, is the Library Still One of Them?”, Zaslow wrote of libraries’ appeal to kids: “It’s a last-ditch place to go if they need to find something out.” Couric likewise observed in her April 4 “Notebook,” “It’s a last ditch place to go if they need to find something out.” Amplifying his point, Zaslow wrote, “Sure, there are still library-loving children, but books aren’t necessarily the draw.” That also was Couric’s viewpoint, almost verbatim: “Sure, children still like libraries, but books aren’t the draw.” Couric, through a spokesperson, declined to comment. Seven other sections of “Katie Couric’s Notebook” closely matched the wording in Zaslow’s column.

The most interesting part of the piece is the tidbit that Katie’s Couric’s Notebook is neither a notebook, nor actually Katie’s…

In an interview with NEWSWEEK, a CBS spokeswoman acknowledged that the network fired the producer of “Notebook.” She declined to identify the producer. Couric apparently faces no repercussions, because she doesn’t actually write “Katie’s Couric’s Notebook”–though many of the entries are presented in the form of first-person essays, as was the controversial piece. Addressing her audience, Couric began: “Hi everyone, I still remember when I got my first library card.”

As the graphic capture of the piece above shows, in addition to plagarising Zaslow’s WSJ piece Couric and CBS are presenting the work as Katie’s own words. Couric is clearly listed as an author at the eponymously named blog and the story appears under her byline implying she wrote it. One needs look no further than the case of The New York Times’ Rick Bragg afair (here and here) to see that taking credit for the work of others is a big deal.

CBS’s Public Eye blog, which is supposed to give insight into the behind the scenes at CBS, doesn’t seem much interested in exploring the deception (see their inital post) – leaving it to others to discover and report. They followed that up by rehasing coverage elsewhere, gently sidestepping the fraudelent nature of Couric attaching her byline to the piece in electronic print. Apparently byline integrity isn’t really a big deal at CBS anymore…

Say what you will about Dan Rather and Rathergate (or Memogate), but he never shied away from the responsibility that goes with runing a story under his own byline. Clearly In all the time that has elapsed since then CBS has learned very little…

Addtional coverage at Regret the Error

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