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Washington Post reporter Lisa Rein, who covers federal government issues, lifted material from the website of Government Executive, a business news magazine that caters to government contractors, the paper acknowledged in an editor’s note printed Tuesday.
— Tom Shoop (@tshoop) January 19, 2016
The editor’s note, also reported by former City Paper Editor Erik Wemple, says three articles written by Rein “contained passages that were largely duplicated, without attribution” from GovExec’s site. “The articles contained eight sentences or paragraphs that were taken, verbatim or nearly so, from Government Executive,” the note goes on to explain. The articles were published over the course of six months, on Aug. 17, Jan. 6, and Jan. 7; they are each now topped with an editor’s note.
In a statement sent to Wemple and City Desk, Rein called the plagiarism “inadvertent lapses made in haste,” adding that “they fall short of the standards I have always set for myself.”
“I feel terrible about this, and am committed to seeing that it is not repeated,” she continued. “My apologies to GovExec and to my readers.”
When asked for comment, Post spokesperson Kris Coratti directed City Desk to the editor’s note. Emily Lenzer, a spokesperson for Atlantic Media Company, which owns GovExec, said a statement is forthcoming.
Update 5:45 p.m.: Tom Shoop, the editor in chief of Government Executive Media Group, provided City Desk with the following statement. “We appreciate that the Washington Post’s editors have acknowledged ‘serious lapses’ in judgment and systematic misappropriation of Government Executive’s work. We believe that a pattern of plagiarism should be treated very seriously. We take great pride in the original reporting produced by our staff.”
Update 8:30 p.m.: Rein’s lapses may have gone further back, as a Tweet published in August 2014 pointed out:
— delrayser (@delrayser) August 1, 2014
In a Jul. 31, 2014 story on idle paralegals at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office uncovered by a federal probe, the reporter wrote:
“Dozens of federal employees at an obscure agency that handles appeals of patent applications went years with so little work to do that they collected salaries — and even bonuses — while they surfed the Internet, did laundry, exercised and watched television, an investigation has found.”
A story on the same subject published on Jul. 29, 2014 by the Washington Times and written by Jim McElhatton opened like so:
“Dozens of employees working for an obscure federal agency went years with little work to do, allowing them to collect salaries and bonuses while they shopped online, caught up on chores, watched television or walked the dog, an investigation revealed Tuesday.”
City Desk has emailed Rein about the apparent mirroring here, and will update this post if we hear back.
Update 11:15 a.m.: Rein emailed a response to City Desk this morning.
“Hi Andrew. Sorry it took me a little while to get back to you. I would tell you that the reporters who covered this were all writing from a public inspector general’s report that outlined the details of what the paralegals were doing in clear and vivid language.”