News

Did Rolling Stone accidentally make Matt Taibbi look like a plagiarist?

Pin it

We recently big-upped Matt Taibbi's profile of Michele Bachmann in the newest Rolling Stone. And we weren't alone — the article's been getting passed around quite a bit, which is why it comes as a bit of a shock that large chunks of it were apparently pulled from a similar profile of Bachmann from 2006.

Taibbi apparently used quotes from a profile of Bachmann that was originally written by one G.R. Anderson, a former Minneapolis City Pages reporter who is now a journalism professor at the University of Minnesota.

Apparently, most of the fluff comes from un-attributed quotes that appeared in the piece. Rolling Stone executive editor Eric Bates explains that the attributions were absent due to "space concerns." He added that he would "get some links included in the story online."

Taibbi responded thusly:

"I did in fact refer to the City Pages piece in the draft I submitted. I did not see that those attributions had been removed. I grew up in alternative newspapers and have been in the position the City Pages reporter is in, so I'm sympathetic. They did good work in that piece and deserve to be credited. But you should know that this isn't plagiarism — it's not even an allegation of plagiarism. It's an attribution issue."

I really feel for Taibbi here: I certainly don't think that he wrote the article without attributions, and now his name is being soiled all over the internet by hacks like me. Editor Bates, on the other hand, deserves a stern lecture: attributions should never be edited out of an article, particularly in this day and age, when the internet lets you cross-reference things so much faster. And Rolling Stone should take more care to protect Taibbi, whose vitriolic political writing is point one on a short list of things keeping that magazine from total irrelevance. 

Take a look at the Awl, which has done a side-by-side comparison of the two pieces and decide for yourself.