Cache Offers Clue to Post’s Elizabeth Flock’s Stinging Editor’s Note: “A Significant Ethical Lapse”
The Post’s Elizabeth Flock
Update: Both Romenesko and Poynter’s Andrew Beaujon report that Flock has resigned. According to her LinkedIn account, Flock had worked at the Post since September 2010.
According to the note, Flock’s original post lifted “made inappropriate, extensive use of an original report”:
EDITORS’ NOTE: An earlier version of this report made inappropriate, extensive use of an original report by Discovery News and also failed to credit that news organization as the primary source for the blog post. This was a significant ethical lapse and not in keeping with our journalistic standards. We apologize to Discovery News.
Here’s the original Discovery story by Irene Klotz. The current blog post from the Post is just the editor’s note and a brief summary of Discovery’s story.
What’s going on? Since the Post has edited the original story, let’s take a look at the thumbnail of the Google cache of the page, which seems to still hold the original version of the post. It suggests that this is more than a case of a missing hat tip.
Ignore the highlighting and take a look at the second-to-last paragraph. Here’s what Flock wrote:
Critics say the numerical method researchers used has not been proven to be effective for distinguishing between biological and non-biological processes on Earth.
And here’s a similar paragraph from Discovery’s story.
Critics counter that the method has not yet been proven effective for differentiating between biological and non-biological processes on Earth so it’s premature to draw any conclusions.
There are some differences in words and syntax—Flock uses “distinguishing” instead of differentiating, for example, but the sentences are extremely similar. I’ve emailed Flock, Pexton, and Discovery’s Klotz for comment.
In December, Romenesko notes, Flock was slammed by Post ombuds Patrick Pexton for a badly botched story on Mitt Romney and KKK.
Incidentally, if you don’t trust my reading of extremely small type, a forum quoted from Flock’s version of that paragraph on Friday.