The New York Daily News has fired one of its editors for removing attribution from columns by writer Shaun King, which made it appear as though King had plagiarized the works of others.
On Tuesday, Daily News editor-in-chief Jim Rich told CNNMoney that the editor in question had “made a series of egregious and inexplicable errors,” and on at least three occasions “deleted attribution that made it appear passages from Shaun King’s columns were not properly credited.”
“These mistakes are unacceptable and the editor in question has been fired,” Rich said. The Daily News did not identify the editor, but a source with knowledge of the situation said it was editor Jotham Sederstrom.
Sederstrom could not be immediately reached for comment by CNNMoney.
Rich also said that “because of the recurring nature of this editor’s specific mistakes,” the Daily News was “currently reviewing all of the columns he edited.”
The announcement came after a chaotic day in which King had vehemently defended himself against mounting accusations of plagiarism.
Justin Miller, a senior editor at The Daily Beast, accused King of plagiarism on Tuesday after it was discovered that his most recent article included two paragraphs that were identical to those in a Daily Beast article. King’s article included no quotation marks and no mention of The Daily Beast.
In an interview, King told CNNMoney that the appearance of plagiarism in the article was the result of errors by an editor. King said he provided proper attribution in his drafts, but that the citations and quotation marks were removed by an editor without his knowledge.
“Someone really f****ed up here,” King said of the editor. “Someone dropped the ball.”
Rich corroborated King’s explanation, calling it “an editing mistake.” The Daily News also added an editor’s note to the article.
Journalists on Twitter, however, were drawing attention to several more instances in which King appeared to have plagiarized. These included a FiveThirtyEight article from last week, a Drexel University article from February, and a blog post from PhotogrophyIsNotACrime.com from last December.
King told CNNMoney that in all of these cases he had provided proper attribution and that an editor had removed his citation and quotation marks. King also said that he was not aware of those changes because he never reads his articles after they have been published.
While the Daily News took time to put a statement together, King took to Twitter. In a series of sharply worded tweets, he vehemently defended himself and even suggested that the Daily Beast was motivated to damage his reputation because “Chelsea Clinton is on the board of the parent company of The Daily Beast.”
“They ride HARD for Hillary,” King wrote. “Sure that played a role.”
King finished with a categorial denial of any wrongdoing: “By in large, if you think I plagiarized a damn thing, you can kiss my a**,” he wrote. “Feel free to quote that. Those are my words too.”
Rich came to King’s defense in his statement on Tuesday: “Because of the subject matter that Shaun tackles as senior justice writer, he faces intense — and often unfair — scrutiny. To suggest — as many already have — that Shaun has done anything wrong here, is completely inaccurate.”
“Despite this inexcusable set of mistakes, the Daily News’ commitment to quality journalism is as strong as ever,” Rich wrote.
The incident marks the culmination of a tumultuous six-month period for King. Last November, his Twitter account was locked after he tweeted personal information about a CNN employee. In February, he called a black sportswriter at Fox News a “coon” and an Uncle Tom. There have also been questions about him using money he raised for Black Lives Matter for his own personal benefit. King has denied any financial wrongdoing with the charity’s money.
King says that all the scrutiny surrounding him makes him more careful about what he writes, and about being sure not to plagiarize.
For The Daily Beast, however, the damage has been done, and the fault lies with The Daily News as an institution as much as with any of writer or editor.
“The Daily News says this was editor’s error, but either way the result is the same,” executive editor Noah Shachtman told CNNMoney. “In journalism we’re not judged by our rough copy, we’re judged by what we put on the web, what we put on the page.”
“Mostly I just hate the fact that a reporter who spent months and months on this story sort of gets scooped up by the aggregation machine in a matter of hours,” he continued. “The Daily News was one of the great papers. What are they doing? … It’s troubling to see them turn into an aggregation shop.”