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November 11, 2005



You handled this with great good grace and decorum. Would that the rest of the world were this civilized.



Wow. Really fucking interesting, and, as you mentioned, somewhat sad. One would expect more from an esteemed publication like the Chronicle. In this regard, I would, though I'm often astounded by spelling and grammatical errors that get past their copy editors (the other day they incorrectly named the murdered wife of a prominent local attorney on an inner page after referring to her correctly on the front page).

I must say, though, as I was reading the Chronicle series, I also felt as though I'd heard some of the stories before (yes, I'd read that New Yorker article in 2003... as I mentioned before, suicide by bridge-jumping has long been a keen fascination of mine).

What struck me most when reading the Chronicle series was the mention of the fast-approaching 1,000th jump and the media attention SF officials were worried it would receive. I specifically remembered reading about the sad soon-to-be milestone and the thwarted radio contest to predict the day it would happen.

I guess what I'm trying to say is thank you for doing the legwork to get to the bottom of this. Not many (including myself) would go to the trouble to see that journalistic integrity is maintained. Or restored, in this matter. Kudos to you.


It is quite funny that the SF Weekly is pursuing the story! And here is why: one guy (who coincidentally jump himself of the bridge) Weldon Kees, was the subject of a piece by Anthony Lane in the NYer (http://www.newyorker.com/critics/atlarge/articles/050704crat_atlarge) and of a cover story in the Weekly by Matt Smith (http://www.sfweekly.com/Issues/2005-07-27/news/smith.html). Smith's piece does cite Lane's, but I had some nagging feeling reading Smith's, a sense of deja vu.

For instance, Lane:

It is almost half a century since San Francisco police found a 1954 Plymouth Savoy on the north side of the Golden Gate Bridge. On Tuesday, July 19, 1955, a highway patrol reported that the car, belonging to a Weldon Kees, had been discovered with the keys in the ignition. Two of Kees’s friends, Michael Grieg and Adrian Wilson, went to search the apartment of the missing man.


A half-century ago last week, a Highway Patrol officer found a 1954 Plymouth sedan and its keys abandoned on the Marin County side of the Golden Gate Bridge. Two friends of Kees, anarchist poet Michael Grieg and clarinetist Adrian Wilson, a partner in printing projects with Jack Stauffacher, went to search Kees' apartment.

Randy Charles Morin

That's some a-list reporting.


I read the Chronicle article and felt as though I had read it before. I distinctly recall the New Yorker piece as well. It was very well written; a very good story. Someone at the Chronicle has a bit of explaining to do.

Margaret Maloney

I also had that sense of deja vu, but couldn't trace where I had read it before. Good work.


Working at a distress line, I had read the New Yorker article only months ago when it was shared with me by a coworker. I linked to the Chronicle's 7 part series from BoingBoing (and you also) and found it very familiar as well, though I am obviously not a journalist, and looked no further into it. Thanks for spotting and researching something that twigged for me as well.


For some more criticism of the Chronicle (albeit from a right-wing point of view):

Tom DeVries

Nice catch.... except the part about the orginal New Yorker piece. Wasn't that the story where Tad Friend announced without attribution that fear of bridges was the most common phobia in the Bay Area? I have lived here for 35 years and don't know anyone who is afraid of bridges. It was nonsense, and it made me doubt the whole story.
But shame on Guthman anyway.


Excellent catch!

Keith Alioto

I'm going to post this in its entirety and pawn it off as my own original work on my blog. Hope you don't mind... Nice job.

czeltic girl

Way to go, v! That's some nice research. Please do keep us posted on what the Chronicle has to say. Shame on them for failing to attribute sources. Perhaps someone there missed day 1 of j-school.


Fabulous insight, investigation, and reporting. This is the height of the blogosphere. Congratulations, and thanks.


hey, michael savage has been telling us the Chronicle's a sorry excuse for reporting for some time now...


I knew Marissa, we grew up together. and as i did find your blog interesting i didn't find it was very relevant. if you're going to attack someone over plagiarism then find a better example. Missy's suicide was tragic for everyone involved, so for the same story in separate papers to be similar or the same, I mean Jesus Christ find another fucking story to tear apart, not someone's suicide. especially hers. you talk like it's the latest trend or a new fucking movie that came out. she was a real person, a beautiful person and one i still have an immense amount of respect for. the dead deserve respect regardless of whther or not you knew them.

Violet Weed

I know Edward Guthmann, have known him for decades. I do not believe Edward would ever intentionally plaigarize anything. As a professional writer and author and a voracious reader, I know that it is easy to say something you think is 'original' only to realize later that you 'read it somewhere'. So cut the guy some slack. There used to be professional content editors who would research articles and add the credits where crediting is due. As for going to journalism school, oh do you mean training for the DEVIL'S MINIONS? Edward is a theatre critic, he's used to giving his original opinions on movies and plays. When everything one writes is definitely 'original' one tends not to think about copyrights etc.

As for the SF Chronicle being an 'esteemed' product, ha ha ha ha ha, we ARE talking about a SAN FRANCISCO 'news'paper, right? The North American headquarters of the liberal mentality and the darker side. One doesn't read that 'rag' for 'news', unless one is, well, stoooopid.


A couple responses:

JIJ, let me start off by saying that I'm very sorry for your loss. I'm not denigrating your loss or Ms. Imrie in any way -- the subject matter of the Guthmann and Friend pieces, though tragic, doesn't affect what I'm writing here. I'm writing about the plagiarism and how this story was covered by two different writers. The subject matter is vivid and emotional, which is probably why I remembered reading the Friend piece in the New Yorker in the first place: it made an impression.

Again, I'm writing about the plagiarism, not about suicide. And I don't think I'm disrespecting anyone here, including Marissa Imrie or the writers whose work I'm examining.


And to Violet Weed,

First of all, are you the same Violet Weed who asserted on another site that I'd gotten my facts wrong, without explaining exactly how? If that's the case, please alert me to any factual errors I've made.

Secondly, as I pointed out in my response to your two-year-old comment on EdRants, this is an issue of plagiarism, not one of copyright. They're two different things. We can have a discussion of one or the other, but to conflate them does no one any good.

Yes, the state of journalism has changed mightily in the past few decades. But that doesn't obviate the need to pay attention to the details of sourcing and other such things. As you point out, plagiarism can be committed unintentionally, but that doesn't excuse the fact that it's happened.

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