First, we learned that while imitation might well be the “sincerest form of flattery,” theft of words does not imitation make.
See how I used quotation marks there? Wasn’t going to…style-wise I don’t like how they look…but that turn of phrase is Charles Caleb Colton’s, not mine.
Then, we saw an icon of aggregation apparently toppled (or not, depending on your perspective) by the mighty Quotation Mark.
I’m not going to opine (much) on The Markham Affair, except to say that I agree with everything Ben says here. And to add in my support for the good people at Mulholland Books. I’m not using “good” euphemistically here; I know some of them and can attest that they are good, conscientious people. They care about what they’re doing, about bringing great stories to readers. They are not at fault here. Could they have done some things differently? Sure. Will they learn from this experience? Absolutely.
What really kills me about this? If Markham was not a, idiotic, dishonest human, he might have gone about this project in such a fashion that created something interesting and/or valuable. He’s obviously read quite a few spy novels. If he had not been absent, asleep, or too hopped up on his own self image to pay attention, he might have learned during his doubtless illustrious education that plagiarism is not ok. That writing is hard, and stealing is unacceptable.
Yeah, I’m mad. I don’t like seeing readers insulted, by someone who part-owns a bookstore, no less.
Quotation Marks reared their cute little heads again this week when Jim Romanesko and the Poynter Institute parted ways. In case you’ve never heard of either Poynter or Romanesko:
The Poynter Institute is a non-profit educational organization devoted to promoting and preserving quality journalism. They’re a school, and they also own the largest newspaper in Florida. They were established by Nelson Poynter, a fascinating guy in his own right.
Jim Romanesko is the granddaddy of news aggregation for reporters. Under the auspices of Poynter, he blogged about the news for some 12 years. His posts adopted a style that did not involve the use of quotation marks when he was quoting a news story. His readers knew when he was quoting, though. The thing is, Poynter has specific guidelines outside of which these posts fell. So long, painful story short, Romanesko and Poynter have parted ways, which has cause what could charitably be called an uproar.
I’ve long been as much a fan of Romanesko as anyone, but I have to agree with Poynter here. They can’t teach one thing and practice another, nor can you purport to be an ethical watchdog if you’re straddling ethical lines. On this one, I agree wholeheartedly with Eric Deggans, whose excellent post on the subject is here.
And the lesson from this week’s drah-ma? Don’t steal something someone else wrote and present it as your own. I know we all know this, but given all that’s happened, seems worth repeating.
Long live the quotation mark!