Fareed Zakaria, the well-known television host and columnist, has been suspended by CNN and Time magazine for committing the transgression that all respectable journalists abhor: plagiarism.
Mr. Zakaria admitted last week that he'd lifted, without attribution, material from an April 23 article in the New Yorker magazine by historian and essayist Jill Lepore. Mr. Zakaria used the paragraph in his column on gun control that appeared in the Aug. 20 issue of Time. He also recycled Ms. Lepore's words in a blog post for CNN.com.
The similarity of the Lepore and Zakaria passages was reported by the conservative blog NewsBusters, which monitors the media. To his credit, Mr. Zakaria did not challenge the accusation and apologized to Ms. Lepore and his readers and editors. In addition to suspending him, Time is investigating his past work.
Mr. Zakaria also was accused -- wrongly, it turns out -- of lifting a quote from a 2005 book written by former U.S. Commerce Department official Clyde Prestowitz. The quote, which was credited, appears in Mr. Zakaria's book The Post-Modern World, published three years later.
"This is not an academic work where everything has to be acknowledged and footnoted," Mr. Zakaria told the Washington Post this week. "The book contains hundreds of comments and quotes that aren't attributed because doing so, in context, would interrupt the flow for the reader."
The concern is not with flow, but with gathering information honestly and giving credit to others when it is due. It won't matter how many news outlets disseminate a commentator's views if his words cannot be trusted.