Mea sorta culpa.
January 14, 2002 9:06 AM   Subscribe

Mea sorta culpa. Let the hunt begin. First, Stephen Ambrose was accused of plagiarizing one book, and then another. After he apologized and challenged "critics to find other unquoted borrowings," they promptly did. It looks like Ambrose is being outed by his fellow historians, or maybe The Sins of Stephen Ambrose are coming back to haunt him. (BTW, in the print community, plagiarizing is like double-posting. This post happens to be an e-post-ilogue)
posted by jacknose (12 comments total)
I'm aware that I could have added this to the previous discussion, but it seems to be significant that Ambrose's whole canon is now under fire. A mistake can be forgiven once, and maybe twice. But what happens when a historian makes a career out of plagiarism?
posted by jacknose at 9:10 AM on January 14, 2002

he rewrites history!
posted by bittennails at 9:14 AM on January 14, 2002

I was going to buy a couple of his books for our library, as they are on the California Department of Education's recommended list for 9-12 libraries. Now I don't think I will BTW, plagarism is seen as a huge deal , Jacknose, double-posting is ephemeral and not that big of a deal (except around here) :-)
posted by Lynsey at 9:41 AM on January 14, 2002

Here's a side-by-side look at some of the texts in question in today's USA Today. It's pretty damning.
posted by emptyage at 10:16 AM on January 14, 2002

What's a 9-12 library?
posted by crunchburger at 11:12 AM on January 14, 2002

Sorry, I should have said grades 9-12, i.e. high school library.
posted by Lynsey at 11:20 AM on January 14, 2002

Schädenfreude alert.
posted by dhartung at 11:58 AM on January 14, 2002

where the hell is the publishing house's editorial staff? the fact checkers and editorial assistants that double check all writing? fine if he doesn't know how to correctly give credit, but by all means, they should... and they are paid to do so. if someone wasn't already fired at Simon & Schuster for the first flub, i'd wager someone lost their job over this one... and not just some assistant either... or at least should be. that being said, more 'oft than liked to admit, some authors receive kid gloves and are edited through weird telepathic manners rather than hands on, much akin to that new fuzzy math that's been plaguing the world.
posted by eatdonuts at 2:08 PM on January 14, 2002

Eatdonuts, how do you propose that the editorial staff should have been able to detect the plagiarism? I know of no easy way for them to have done so.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:28 PM on January 14, 2002

where the hell is the publishing house's editorial staff? the fact checkers and editorial assistants that double check all writing?

Why would a publishing company spend money fact-checking Ambrose when his books are selling well enough without it? Besides, he's the expert, right? That's why they hired him to write books in the first place.
posted by kindall at 3:25 PM on January 14, 2002

DevilsAdvocate and kindall are right -- detecting this sort of transgression is completely beyond the power of any commercial publisher's editorial staff. It would be another matter if he were publishing through an academic press, where peer review is required. It's unreasonable to expect that level of knowledge at a commercial house like Simon & Schuster; his editors would have to read (and fully digest) all Ambrose's sources and then some.

Besides, commercial publishers do precious little editing of any kind these days. They acquire a book, package it, print it, promote it, warehouse it, and ship it; a lot of the rest is subcontracted out.
posted by macrone at 4:49 PM on January 14, 2002

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