Friday, October 21, 2005

Californian paper was warned 6 months ago about Nada Behziz

Updated information 11/16/05 here. Media: I said earlier that some fault with Behziz article going to print had to go to the editors who did not do their job. Now we get some info that a doctor wrote into paper on an earlier Behziz article saying she stole most of the info from the New York Times.

Six months before a Californian reader alerted editors to a stolen quote that ran in a front-page story Sunday -- a story that turned out to contain plagiarized passages and fabricated sources -- a letter from a local doctor indicated another story by the same reporter contained plagiarized information. But the tip, in a 21/2-page letter documenting inaccuracies in the article due to technical differences between CT scans and ultrasounds, went unnoticed. Had anyone checked, they would have found Nada Behziz's April 10 article largely plagiarized a New York Times story. The story also included a local physician and a cancer survivor, neither of whose existence can yet be verified. Here's the unnoticed tip, which hung at the bottom of the second page of a letter from Dr. Girish Patel, a Bakersfield radiologist who heads Truxtun Radiology Medical Group: "Ms. Behziz has 'quoted' Dr. Kramer and Dr. Brant-Zawadzki in her story. However, she failed to credit the source of those comments, which came from an article 'Rapid Rise and Fall for Body-Scanning Clinics' by Gina Kolata in (the) New York Times and linked by Free Republic" -- an online news site -- "on January 23, 2005." But Patel's complaints, including the larger issue in his letter about alleged technical errors, fell through the cracks. Logan Molen, The Californian's managing editor, a senior position in the newsroom, took charge of responding to the letter. Molen said Thursday he "scanned" the letter but did not carefully read every word. "It's pretty dense," Molen said, referring to technical descriptions of medical devices. What's more, later discussions between Molen, Behziz and other editors revolved around bulleted items that Patel's letter called the "three major points." Those related to whether providers of mobile ultrasound services were fraudulently advertising their product as body scans, which use X-ray technology. "I don't recall anybody specifically raising the plagiarization question or any kind of ethical concerns," Molen said. Rather, he said, he and others were "trying to wrestle with the facts of the scan issue." When asked if the paragraph about unattributed quotes from another news organization would have raised red flags had he read it, Molen said: "I would have chased it. I would have followed up to make sure somebody ... looked into it."
What? How can warning lights not pop up when the doctor clearly wrote the quotes came from a New York Times article? Did Molen space out when Free Republic came up and dismiss the letter? Molen did not do his job.

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