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@BuzzFeed continues orgy of self-beclowning

buzzfeed1Only two days after posting on why BuzzFeed is not trusted by either right or left, BuzzFeed continued to provide proof of the accuracy of that statement.

While the crux of the post was about a Pew poll that rated BuzzFeed, except for its collection of celebrity T&A and Facebook quizzes, as totally unreliable, we pointed out the cheap, reflexive hit BuzzFeed did on GOP senatorial candidate David Perdue in which they simply repackaged a “tracker” video, were called out on how grotesquely wrong it was, and had to retract the allegation. That was not sufficient chastisement.

Enter Andrew Kaczynski and his no-hold’s barred, hard hitting journalistic exposé Iowa Republican Copied And Pasted Passages In Newspaper Dispatches

During her time as a member of the Iowa Senate, Republican Senate candidate Joni Ernst frequently published reports of the goings-on in the statehouse for her constituents. These updates took the form of articles in her local newspapers, the Red Oak Express and the Opinion-Tribune, and an online newsletter.

Large portions of many of these articles, which were published under her name, appear to have been copied word for word from templates sent as guidelines to Republican members of the Iowa Senate.

That’s right folks, she reproduced press and constituent materials that were designed to be reproduced. But it gets worse:

Other passages in Ernst’s dispatches appear to have been directly lifted from Gov. Terry Branstad’s 2012 “Condition of the State” address, a Branstad press release about a tax return deadline after flooding in the state, and language from a law.

ZOMG!1!!11!!1! She reprinted a “press release.” Guys, this is why you hire PR people to write press releases. So that they are used, either verbatim or with very minor alterations. It is nice when someone just uses your release as an idea but I have had my releases appear, verbatim (and once including a typo), in papers across this nation. Including some like the Houston Chronicle, LA Times, and Chicago Tribune.

Andrew Kaczynski, in case you don’t know, is the relentless intelligence behind BuzzFeed’s one-man war on plagiarism. This is the schlock he churns out:
kaczynski

I suppose if you were examining things that actually mattered, like scholarly journals, this would be a noble effort. But when your editor has decided that the best way you can contribute to the operation is by scanning the op-eds and campaign literature of candidates that should be a clue that your skills and general acumen aren’t all that highly valued.

This story is just bullsh** on stilts. Apparently even Kaczynski knows it because note he doesn’t use the word “plagiarize.” Bloomberg’s Jonathan Bernstein answers this “scoop” in a story titled You Can’t Plagiarize Your Own Talking Points:

Here’s today’s installment of stupid and stupider from the campaign.

I’m a plagiarism hard-liner, but the hunt for offenders in this election cycle by Buzzfeed’s Andrew Kaczynski is just silly. So today we get (via Weigel) Kaczynski and his colleague Ilan Ben-Meir calling out the Republican Senate candidate in Iowa, Joni Ernst, for sending op-eds to local papers “large portions” of which “appear to have been copied word-for-word from templates sent as guidelines to Republican members of the Iowa Senate.”

Yes, that’s right: Ernst (allegedly) cribbed from Republican talking points.

There’s nothing unethical about that. It’s what talking points are for! it. Yes, it was wrong for Joe Biden, in his aborted 1988 presidential run, to copy a speech, which made him describe someone else’s family experience as his own. But to use party-authored boilerplate to praise tax cuts and balanced budgets is utterly reasonable.

Ben Smith, in particular, has been in the business long enough to know that press releases and talking points are designed to be reproduced without alteration and that organizations spend a lot of time and money developing them. It is difficult to believe that Ben Smith didn’t know this story was crap when he allowed it to run.  And it is equally difficult to conclude that he allowed it for any other reason than trying to help the Ernst’s opponent.

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