Monday, March 29, 2010

Benjamin Genocchio, NYT Art Critic, Admits Lifting Language From Wikipedia Entry For Review, Calls It "Inadvertent And Unintentional."

In an email to The NYTPicker this evening, NYT art critic Benjamin Genocchio admitted that he "somehow echoed some of the language" from a Wikipedia entry in a review published on Sunday in the NYT Connecticut edition.

Gennochio wrote that he had "certainly read" the entry on Eero Saarinen, the famous 20th century architect, in preparing to review a Saarinen exhibition at Yale.

"It was certainly inadvertent and unintentional," Genocchio said.

In a post earlier today, The NYTPicker noted similarities of language and juxtaposition between a sentence in Genocchio's review and the first paragraph of the Wikipedia entry.

The critic -- who is reportedly about to leave the NYT to become the editor-in-chief of Art + Auction -- added that he had also read the "vast catalog" for the exhibition and "many other sources" in getting ready to write.

But Genocchio was forthright and direct in acknowledging his mistake.

"I apologize to the readers and Wikepedia authors," Gennochio wrote.

In Genocchio's email, he denied that he had read a Yale Daily News review of the exhibit, from February, in which the earlier post noted a sentence that also echoed Genocchio's review.

Here, below, is the full text of Genocchio's email:

Dear NYTPicker
Thank you for your email.

In answer to your question I certainly read the Wikepedia entry on Saarinen (as well as the vast catalog on the artist that comes with the exhibition as well as many other sources) in preparation for the review. I did not however read the Yale Daily News. Reviewing below it would seem that in one instance I have somehow echoed some of the language from a sentence in the Wikepedia entry. It was certainly inadvertent and unintentional and I apologize to the readers and Wikepedia authors.

Thank you for your vigilance.

Benjamin Genocchio

EARLIER: Did NYT Art Critic Benjamin Genocchio Lift Language From Wikipedia For A Review? It Sure Looks That Way.


Anonymous said...

"Echoing" is not the same as "lifting". That's a mean and inaccurate reduction. One is unconscious and the other conscious.

Both are the foundation of language itself. We imitate the sounds of others and eventual converge upon a meaning that lasts until those meddling kids come up with a new one.

Notice how I slipped in that phrase from "Scooby Do, Where Are You!"? (Sheesh. Got to get the title right around here. Don't want to be fragged.)

Was it plagiarism? An homage? A game? Or just how our brain works?

The real problem with plagiarism comes when the writer does no work and no synthesis, drafting off the hard work of others. A word here or a word there is nothing. Even a sentence or three is understandable in a longer piece. The question is whether the reporter is reading widely and doing some real knitting and heavy lifting. (All the unmixed metaphors were already used by others. Sorry.)

Accuracy should trump originality, especially in news reporting. We want our reporters to have the inalienable right to use words deployed by others if they're the best words. We don't want them fretting with the anxiety of influence, replacing lightning with lightning bugs just to avoid some anonymous scold. Otherwise the reporters will be digging up inane, lapidary words, searching for indemnification to chastisement.

Think about the readers.

Anonymous said...

If you take words from one place and move them to another place, it's "lifting." Doesn't matter if it's conscious or unconscious. If you accidentally take something from a department store, that doesn't mean you didn't take it. This item makes it clear that Genocchio's actions were inadvertent. NYTPicker never calls it plagiarism or suggests it was intentional stealing.

I think this incident has been handled responsibly by both NYTPicker and Genocchio. The case is closed.