Malcolm Gladwell Accused of Plagiarism

The bloggers at Our Bad Media who exposed Fareed Zakaria’s plagiarism are accusing The New Yorker’s Malcolm Gladwell of the journalistic crime as well. The bloggers, who operate under the pseudonyms @blippoblappo and @crushingbort, show that Gladwell lifted without attribution portions of his profile of Steve Jobs, a piece about Albert O. Hirschman, and the Greensboro sit-ins. The bloggers claim the Steve Jobs story was lifted from Jeffrey Young’s Steve Jobs: The Journey Is the Reward, the Hirschman taken from John E. Sawyer’s Explorations in Entrepreneurial History, and the Greensboro story was lifted from Miles Wolff’s Lunch at the Five and Ten.

Gladwell’s response was terse: “This, from long ago, perhaps best captures my feelings on this subject: http://gladwell.com/something-borrowed/.”

New Yorker Editor David Remnick said “the issue is not really about Malcolm. And, to be clear, it isn’t about plagiarism.” He continued:

The issue is an ongoing editorial challenge known to writers and editors everywhere—to what extent should a piece of journalism, which doesn’t have the apparatus of academic footnotes, credit secondary sources? It’s an issue that can get complicated when there are many sources with overlapping information. There are cases where the details of an episode have passed into history and are widespread in the literature. There are cases that involve a unique source. We try to make judgments about source attribution with fairness and in good faith. But we don’t always get it right. In retrospect, for example, we should have credited Miles Wolff’s 1970 book about Greensboro, because it’s central to our understanding of those events. We sometimes fall short, but our hope is always to give readers and sources the consideration they deserve.