27 December 2017

Nice Response

Recently, the Washington Post had a "major" expose revealing that one "Alice Donovan" was a Russian plant feeding to the online publication CounterPunch, and some other largely unnamed publications.

Strongly implied in the Post story is that CounterPunch was a willing tool of the Russian state security apparatus.

After being fielding inquiries from the Post, CounterPunch decided to look at her work for them.

What they determined is that the reality, for them at least, was pretty anodyne:
  • They published one of her articles in 2016, and that was a generic article on cyber-warfare, which had first been published in Veterans Today. (Dead link)
  • In 2017, after the elections they published 3 generically left leaning stories on Syria which they published, one supporting Maduro in Venezuela, and a commentary condemning Erdo─čan, which they chose not to run. 
  • "Alice Donovan" was a serial plagiarizer, which they should have picked up on.
Their conclusion is pretty spot on:
In sum, we published five stories by Donovan. One was apolitical. Four could be considered critiques of US foreign policy during the Trump administration. None mentioned Hillary Clinton (or Vladimir Putin for that matter).

Based solely on what we’d just reviewed was there any reason at the time to suspect that Alice Donovan was anything other than what she appeared to be: an occasional contributor of topical stories? Not as far as we could tell. The stories weren’t pro-Russian polemics and they didn’t read like awkward Google-translations of the Russian language. The most controversial thing that could be said about them was that some stories attempted to present a particular Syrian view of the war, a perspective rarely heard in the US media.

………

None of this, however, is an exculpation for our own blunders. Somewhere along the line we blew it. We let a plagiarist and a possible troll onto CounterPunch. Were there warning signs that we missed? Sure. Should we have been alert to the awkward phrases in some of the articles on Syria that didn’t read like the original Donovan piece? No doubt. But recall that we had published more than 5,000 articles between the first and second Donovan stories. We should have picked up on the lifted passages in the “Escalation in Syria” story because there was a link that took us directly to the piece that was plagiarized. We should have become suspicious about Donovan after the New York Times story ran in September. Those are on us.

I agree with that conclusion: they need to drop some coin on editors, because her plagiarism, and by that I mean straight cut and paste, should have been easy to spot after a few submissions.

They need some copy editors.

As to the Post, if this does seem to be making a mountain out of a molehill.

The final word goes to CounterPunch though, "If Donovan’s intent was to destroy 'our democratic values' by committing crimes against journalism, she’ll need to swing a lot harder to surpass the damage done by Judith Miller."

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