Sunday, August 10, 2008

Scandalous news

Jody Rosen, a pop-music writer posting on Slate, uncovers chronic plagiarism in articles by a stringer for the Montgomery County Bulletin, a weekly in suburban Houston:

Whereupon the publisher-editor of the paper pleads ignorance and ceases publication, and the offending writer offers an impassioned but utterly lame defense:

Plagiarism is stealing. When some clown lifts quotes from publicity packets without bothering to check their provenance – not too onerous a task in the age of Google – he queers things for those of us who strive to do journalism honorably. (The offender says he's gone from this gig. I say: Good. Stay gone.)

But before succumbing to terminal shock and awe over what Rosen suggests may be "the greatest plagiarism scandal in the annals of American journalism," note that this scandal is about writing on music, whose composers have been plagiarizing one another – and every folk musician they can cop a lick from – for all of recorded history.

The moral of this story: Music writers need a healthy set of antibodies to avoid catching the musicians' bug.