Earlier today, the NYT's Business editor, Larry Ingrassia -- who only 15 months ago bragged to his staff about his decision to hire the "nimble competitor" Zachery Kouwe from the New York Post -- told the department's staff in an internal email, obtained by The NYTPicker, that Kouwe's acts of plagiarism "do not diminish" their accomplishments.
But in keeping with the NYT's frequent closed-mouth policy when pertaining to its own embarrassments, Ingrassia told his reporters nothing about the specifics of the situation involving Kouwe. He didn't even go so far as to tell his staff whether Kouwe was still employed by the paper or not.
The NYT owes its readers more information than the sketchy and inconclusive Editors' Note it published today -- one that didn't even dare to utter the word "plagiarism," even though that was the act it clearly described.
The NYT needs to come clean -- and soon -- about what it knows, and what it doesn't.
It needs to admit to readers, without parsing words, that a reporter committed repeated acts of plagiarism in its pages.
The NYT also should quickly disclose its decision about Kouwe's fate. Have they allowed Kouwe to remain an active, salaried member of the NYT staff in the wake of these allegations? Have they suspended him? Did he quit? What is Kouwe's explanation for his actions?
The paper needs to assure readers that it will make public the results of its investigation, at least disclosing every instance of plagiarism it's able to document -- and soon.
We don't hold the NYT responsible for Kouwe's actions, but we do feel the NYT owes its readers a full, thorough account of its handling of the case. For the NYT to act behind a wall of "no comment" -- and to only speak to its staff, and the public, in generic platitudes about integrity -- does a disservice to the NYT's reputation and position.
Ingrassia's email has continued the NYT's information stonewall, echoing the Editors' Note reference to "improperly inappropriated" passages in Kouwe's work, and its implicit suggestion that his actions aren't those of a plagiarist.
"The cases that we have found so far involve the copying of background and related material from elsewhere," Ingrassia said.
The Editor's Note likewise chose not to use the word "plagiarism" to describe Kouwe's actions.
NYT reporters have been kept in the dark on all specific aspects of the case, and it's not known whether Kouwe has been relieved of his duties -- temporarily or permanently -- or has resigned.
There does remain the possibility that Kouwe continues to be actively employed by the NYT as a reporter. His name still appears, as of tonight, as a reporter on the Dealbook masthead, prominently displayed on the blog.
Kouwe had a NYT byline as recently as Saturday, the day after the paper got a letter from WSJ managing editor Robert Thompson accusing the reporter of plagiarism.
On Sunday night, after spotting the Editor's Note online, we emailed NYT spokeswoman Diane McNulty the following questions:
"Will Kouwe continue to work as a reporter while the investigation referred to in the Editor's Note take place? What is his current status with the NYT?"
"Can you be any more specific regarding the number of instances -- articles, blog posts, etc. -- that you have discovered, as of now, with passages lifted without credit from other news organizations?"
McNulty's full response, emailed to us 12 hours later: "We don't comment on personnel issues and the investigation is ongoing."
Readers of the NYT deserve a better answer than that, and soon.
Meanwhile, here is the full text of Ingrassia's internal email, sent under the heading, "A Note From Larry to the BizDay Staff":
You probably have read by now the disappointing news in this morning's paper and on the Web that we've discovered repeated instances in which one of our reporters, Zach Kouwe, appropriated passages appearing in articles from other news organizations. The cases that we have found so far involve the copying of background and related material from elsewhere, and the inclusion of that material in Times stories and postings without appropriate attribution.
This is truly unfortunate, given the excellent and groundbreaking work that Business Day has been doing and the highest standards that all of you hold yourselves to, day in and day out. Our track record of delivering first-rate news and enterprise has been built over years and years, and the regrettable actions of one reporter do not diminish what we have accomplished and will accomplish in the future.