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Gerald Posner Admits to Plagiarizing From the Miami Herald

Categories: Media Watch
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Photo by Bill Cooke
Gerald Posner
Miami-based investigative reporter Gerald Posner has been caught lifting lines from Miami Herald stories for his own stories at the Daily Beast. As a result, Posner has been temporarily suspended.

Posner, the author of Miami Babylon and many other well-received nonfiction books, took a gig at Tina Brown's Internet-based Daily Beast as the chief investigative reporter, where he bylines pieces about celebrity scandals, international affairs, and every once in a while, turns his attention toward home, writing about South Florida.

You'd think with his connections and sources, he could crank out South Florida scoops all day, but Slate's Jack Shafer caught him lifting lines in a story about the mysterious death of Fontainebleau heir Ben Novack from the Miami Herald.

In his Feburary 4 story on the Beast, Posner wrote:
There is little doubt the Novacks had a volatile relationship. In 2002, 11 years into their marriage, Narcy and two others tied Ben Jr. to a chair, threatened to kill him and took money from his safe, according to the police report filed at the time.

"If I can't have you, no one else will," she told him, according to a divorce petition Ben Jr. filed and then dropped.

Narcy told police investigators at the time that the entire episode was part of a sex game. And she also showed them porno snapshots of women with artificial limbs having sex, claiming her husband had a fetish for them.
Problem is it's nearly a word-for-word rip-off of a passage from Julie Brown's Herald story published two days earlier.
The Novacks, who wed in 1991, had a tumultuous marriage. In 2002, Narcy Novack and two others tied Novack Jr. to a chair, threatened to kill him and removed money from his safe, according to the police report.

"If I can't have you, no one else will," she told him, according to a divorce petition he filed and later dropped.

At the time, Narcy Novack told police the incident was part of a sex game.

She also showed them pornographic pictures of women with artificial limbs, claiming her husband had a fetish for them.
Posner and the Beast quickly came clean and apologized.

"In an earlier version of this article, five sentences were inadvertently copied from a Miami Herald report without attribution. The Daily Beast has removed the sentences and regrets the error. Two additional such sentences have also been removed," read an editor's note attached to the Beast story.

Posner took full responsibility and said he didn't remember reading the Herald story but concludes he must have.

Even Gawker marveled, "Wow, everyone is handling this really professionally."

But then Shafer and a reader dug up seven other examples of Posner plagiarizing, mainly from the Herald, in other Beast stories. Even a passage from Lesley Abravanel's blog was used in a story where he mentions Abravanel. 

The Beast suspended Posner and will review further stories and make a decision about whether he will be reinstated.

Posner released this official statement:
Today I found out that I am suspended from my Chief Investigative Reporter position at The Daily Beast. I now realize that a method of compiling information that I have used successfully since 1984 on book research, obviously does not work in a failsafe manner at the warp speed of the net. Some of the incidents raised by Jack Shafer are not plagiarism, but are instances in which I received the same exact prepared quotation or statement from a police officer or press agent as other reporters. But others are mistakes that I deeply regret.

Rest assured, no one has been tougher on me than I have over this issue. I ask all of you to accept my apology for these instances, a tiny percentage of the hundreds of thousands of words I've written over decades. I accept, however, the full responsibility.
Posner is often credited for his research skills in book reviews. He even wrote about the Novaks in Babylon. It's interesting he partially blames the net, though there's no denying there's a big difference between taking months to research a book and the never-ending deadline of the World Wide Web.

[Slate: Plagiarism at the Daily Beast]
[Slate: More Posner Plagiarism]

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