Keller, Kennedy, and "Crashing"

In discussing the issue of Jon Keller's attribution in "The Bluest State," my friend and former Phoenix cohort Dan Kennedy recently observed that, for good or ill, it is common practice in general-audience trade publishing to not provide sourcing for public-domain material, broadly defined. He was challenged to document that assertion; he understandably responded that he didn't have that kind of spare time. Various bloggers, primarily at Blue Mass Group, then set to work documenting the number of end notes in various general-interest political books, and used those findings to argue that Kennedy is wrong, and Keller is a plagiarist.

They seem to have misunderstood Kennedy's point. You can publish end notes from here to next week, and still not attribute sourcing forthe type of material under discussion. (You can also publish extensive end notes and still have outright falsehoods clogging the pages of your book, but that's not at issue here.)

To illustrate, earlier today I grabbed off my shelf "Crashing the Gate" by Jerome Armstrong and Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, which I chose because A) it was handy; B) I saw it specifically cited on BMG as part of this discussion; C) it's a similar type of book -- opinion politics for a general audience; D) like Keller's book, it intersperses first-hand reporting with second-hand research; and E) I recall thinking, when I originally read it, that "Crashing" was thinly sourced.

I opened my hardback copy of "Crashing" randomly, to page 89, and scanned until I found this suspect, un-footnoted, un-attributed sentence:
In 2004, Stuart Stevens, who came out of Republican politics, and Madison Avenue's Harold Kaplan and Vada Hill, advised the Bush ad makers alongside an informal group of other New Yorkers in the ad business.
A quick Google search quickly led me to an April 19, 2003 New York Magazine feature by Ryan Lizza, the third paragraph of which is:

Like the Reagan team, the Bushies get lots of input from the New York ad world. “I’m a huge fan of Madison Avenue,” says Bush ad-maker Stuart Stevens. “I think some of the most creative people are in that world.” Harold Kaplan of Young & Rubicam is advising Bush, as is Vada Hill, best known for working on Taco Bell’s talking-dog ads. In addition to these formal advisers, Stevens says, the campaign regularly bounces ideas off an informal group of New York ad-makers, just as Reagan’s did.

Pretty clear that Armstrong & Moulitsas got the material from Lizza's article and didn't attribute it.

Armstrong and Moulitsas were certainly familiar with the article; they cite that same Lizza article (both in the text and an endnote) five pages earlier, as the source for a quote from Steve McMahon. They cite the article again in the text (no note) on p. 86, when they run a lengthy (80 words or so) direct excerpt of the article that includes a long quote from Stevens.

As far as I can tell, that is the last reference to Lizza's article as a source. However, it is pretty clearly the source for much, much more -- not just the information in the sentence I happened to pluck out on page 89. The very next sentence in "Crashing," for instance, reads:
In fact, Republicans have been using media professionals since Dwight Eisenhower, when adman Rosser Reeves, from the Ted Bates ad agency, sold Eisenhower on the idea of running television ads ahead of I Love Lucy.
Here's Lizza, in his sixth paragraph:
The ties go back to 1952, when M&M pitchman Rosser Reeves (who made up the phrase “It melts in your mouth, not in your hands”) sold Dwight Eisenhower on the idea of running spots before I Love Lucy.
One could easily posit that Armstrong and Moulitsas borrowed more than just facts and phrasing, but the entire argument of the "Old Ads, New Age" section of their book from Lizza's article, which offered the same basic discussion, using many of the same specific examples.

I'm not looking to bash around Armstrong & Moulitsas. I'm just saying that it's pretty obvious at a glance that their method was to provide attribution when reproducing actual spoken quotations from other articles, and pretty much only in those instances. Certainly, they did not regularly attribute material they considered to be in a very broadly defined "public domain." Which means that, endnotes notwithstanding, "Crashing the Gate" supports Kennedy's observation.

To more fully understand when and how Armstrong & Moulitsas source (for instance, whether they always attribute spoken quotations, or only in some cases), would take a much deeper analysis -- which is exactly what Kennedy was saying. Simply checking for endnotes doesn't tell you anything.

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