Pump up the jam, pump it up

Fig.1: Pump it up.

Timorous airline passenger and Fox News alleged liberal Juan Williams has admitted to making one of his weekly columns an undergraduate copy paste job.  According to Salon‘s Alex Seitz-Wald:

In a case of apparent plagiarism, Fox News pundit Juan Williams lifted — sometimes word for word — from a Center for American Progress report, without ever attributing the information, for a column he wrote last month for the Hill newspaper.

Almost two weeks after publication, the column was quietly revised online, with many of the sections rewritten or put in quotation marks, and this time citing the CAP report. It also included an editor’s note that read: “This column was revised on March 2, 2013, to include previously-omitted attribution to the Center for American Progress.”

But that editor’s note mentions only the attribution problem, and not the nearly identical wording that was also fixed.

The really strange thing about this case is what it reveals about the writing and thinking process of the two-million dollar a year Fox News pundit:

In a phone interview Thursday evening, Williams pinned the blame on a researcher who he described as a “young man.”

“I was writing a column about the immigration debate and had my researcher look around to see what data existed to pump up this argument and he sent back what I thought were his words and summaries of the data,” Williams told Salon. “I had never seen the CAP report myself, so I didn’t know that the young man had in fact not summarized the data but had taken some of the language from the CAP report.”

Two things.  First, he has an assistant?  I’ve always suspected assistants were behind the obscure factoids and misleading statistics in George Will’s work (full disclosure–someone, I’ll find out later who, made this very same quip, I’m borrowing), but Williams’ defense makes that clear.  Second, and more importantly, Williams confesses to his hacktackular thought process.  He has an idea, then sends someone else out to provide data that “pumps it up.”  It’s almost as if he had reached a conclusion, then dispatched a lackey to find him some premises.  He’s the master chef of ideas, some underpaid assistant can chop up the ideas and cook the facts.

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6 Responses to Pump up the jam, pump it up

  1. Saikin says:

    Plagiarism or not, it’s just plain awesome that Williams’ research assistant doesn’t really do research. Instead, he’s someone who receives orders like: “I want to say that P in my article. Please find all the relevant data that supports it, so that my inclination to say that P may appear the result of having looked at the data first and then concluded that P.” Consequently, he’s, rather, a rationalization assistant.

  2. John Casey says:

    That should be his new title.

  3. greg a says:

    Nick Davies’ book Flat Earth News (http://flatearthnews.net/) thoroughly documents how “journalists” frequently just take source material–from wire services, PR sources, etc.–and simply re-write them or even use as is. That “foundations” and “centers” and other group’s “reports” are used by so-called pundits is hardly surprising.

  4. greg a says:

    To editor:

    In my post I thought the website field was a subject field! Sorry! I meant to write:

    “Copy copy is is the new journalism”

  5. dcz says:

    All I have to say is Two things. First, he has an assistant? I’ve always suspected assistants were behind the obscure factoids and misleading statistics in George Will’s work (full disclosure–someone, I’ll find out later who, made this very same quip, I’m borrowing), but Williams’ defense makes that clear. Second, and more importantly, Williams confesses to his hacktackular thought process. He has an idea, then sends someone else out to provide data that “pumps it up.” It’s almost as if he had reached a conclusion, then dispatched a lackey to find him some premises. He’s the master chef of ideas, some underpaid assistant can chop up the ideas and cook the facts.

  6. John Casey says:

    DCZ: your comment is brilliant.

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