Ex-NYT editor Jill Abramson shrugs off plagiarism allegations against her new book because ‘it isn’t exactly the same as journalism’

  • Jill Abramson, a former New York Times executive editor, continued to push back against allegations of plagiarism around her new book.
  • In an interview with CNN host and former New York Times reporter Brian Stelter, Abramson said the issue didn’t qualify as plagiarism but was because of footnotes that mistakenly left out attribution for the passages.
  • Stelter said if he had “plagiarized by accident” while working at the Times, Abramson would have punished him.
  • Several individual journalists found their work in Abramson’s “Merchants of Truth” with no identifiable attribution after a “Vice News Tonight” correspondent first raised the allegations last week.

Jill Abramson, a former New York Times executive editor, continued to push back against allegations of plagiarism around her new book.

Multiple outlets and individual journalists examined Abramson’s “Merchants of Truth” and identified several passages that appeared to be lifted word-for-word from published work.

The plagiarism allegations were first leveled against Abramson on Wednesday by Michael Moynihan, a “Vice News Tonight” correspondent, before CNN Business raised two additional allegations.

CNN host Brian Stelter, who was a media reporter under Abramson at the Times, asked the author in the tense interview if the passages in question would qualify as plagiarism if written for the paper.

“It would meet the Times’ definition of things that should be promptly corrected,” Abramson said. “Sometimes a quote isn’t properly attributed in the newspaper and that’s corrected and that’s what I endeavoured to do here.”

Abramson said one of the examples raised earlier in the segment was the result of “trailing footnotes” that mistakenly didn’t include a direct reference to the content of the paragraph.

“But even if I include a footnote, I still can’t steal their words, word for word the way that you did,” Stelter replied.

“I made errors in the way I credited sources,” Abramson said. “There was no attempt to pass off someone else’s ideas, opinions, and phrasings as my own. These were all factual passages that unfortunately did not match up to the correct footnotes but they are credited elsewhere in the footnotes.”

Then Stelter interjected, saying “footnotes are not sufficient” and such close quoting needed to be indicated in the text.

“In narrative book writing, it isn’t exactly the same as journalism,” Abramson said. “I have reviewed these examples extremely carefully, I take these criticisms extremely carefully, I’ve gone back through my original manuscript pages to try to chase down how this happened.”

After the allegations were surfaced last week, Abramson said she took the allegations seriously and would be making changes to reflect the correct sources.

Read more: Jill Abramson responds to allegations of plagiarism and factual inaccuracies in her new book

“There was no purposeful attempt to not credit someone’s work,” Abramson said.

“But if I did it by accident at the New York Times, I would have gotten in trouble,” Stelter said. “You would have called me in and punished me if I had plagiarized by accident.”

Abramson finished the interview by saying she owns “every mistake, missed citation, badly done footnote,” including the selections that are “way too close for comfort and probably should have been in quotes.”

“Merchants of Truth,” which captures The New York Times, The Washington Post, BuzzFeed, and VICE in a changing media landscape, faced intense scrutiny and conversation last month when multiple peoplefeatured in the book disputed Abramson’s recollection of the facts surrounding their appearance and work.

Watch the full interview below: