Plagiarism scandal in Seattle

At Two Coats of Paint we have nothing but humble admiration for hardworking art critics, so we’re saddened to learn that one of the critics of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer has been accused of plagiarism. John Marshall reports that the reporter’s articles are being examined after one of his art reviews was discovered to have striking similarities to criticism published two years earlier in Art in America.”The P-I is looking at dozens of pieces written for the newspaper between July 2006 and April 2008. All links to his articles through the P-I’s web site have been withdrawn until they have been thoroughly examined and cleared to return to the site….In an e-mail to the P-I on Wednesday, The writer said: ‘I never knowingly plagiarized material. … I’m completely mortified and ashamed for betraying the implicit trust of my colleagues, friends and readers. I know that I can’t undo it or regain that trust but I do offer my sincerest apologies to everyone involved.'” Read more.

At Artdish, editor Jim Demetre wonders why someone as witty, intelligent, and seemingly knowledgeable as this guy would appropriate text from other sources. “The implications can be career-ending and the benefits ($90 a review from Hearst, last time I checked) very minimal. Did he lack the self-confidence to express his own judgments? Was he too lazy to formulate and construct his own arguments?…Just looking at the examples sited by Christopher Frizzelle, I would say that the similar passages are largely used for the purposes of establishing background and context for the show in question. When a New York artist or international art star shows his or her work in Seattle for the first time, many of us have never seen it before but are expected to go to some lengths to provide this to the reader…. When I wrote for the P-I, I would often find myself reviewing a dance piece with very little to go on and would find myself looking through press materials for clues as I approached a deadline and a very limited word count. When was the company established? What were its artistic objectives? How did it fit into the larger art scene in which they existed? These things had to be established at the beginning of the review so that I could follow up with the necessary description, analysis, and judgment. I usually found this to be the most difficult part of writing the piece and an easy place to find myself appropriating information I could not have observed first hand. It seems that plagiarism can be a slippery slope in this gray area…”Read more.

At The Seattle Weekly, Mark D. Fefer admits that he’s sympathetic with the guy. “When he became The Stranger‘s art critic in 2004, he had, by his own admission, very little background in the subject. So he had to learn very quickly how to “talk the talk” in a field awash in pretentious horseshit. You can see this amply demonstrated in the articles he evidently plagiarized�I wouldn’t want to read them once, let alone copy them. When phrases like “Their meaningfully transgressive reinscription” are the norm on museum walls and in the field’s most respected publications, you can hardly fault a young writer for feeling like he’s got to fake it to make it.” Read more.

One Comment

  1. Ms. Butler,

    We at Artdish are saddened as well. Here are some thoughts of my own on the subject:


    Jim Demetre

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