By: Dave Astor
The president of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists says it’s time to go easier on Detroit Free Press columnist Mitch Albom.
“Let’s release him from the whipping post,” said Suzette Martinez Standring, when contacted today by E&P. “I can’t bear to watch the flaying any longer. Yes, he had an ethical lapse with that bogus basketball article. But in the realm of attributions, an investigation indicates he, by history, is not a deliberate and serious quote-lifter.”
According to a story in today’s Free Press, the newspaper found no evidence that Albom had previously written about something that hadn’t yet occurred — as he did in his April 3 column. The inquiry did find that Albom at times used quotes from other media outlets without mentioning he hadn’t gotten the quotes himself. But the Detroit daily said other Freep columnists had done this, and that this reflected a lack of familarity with the paper’s rules of attribution.
“If you’re going to repeat a quote, then be dead accurate and don’t give the impression the actual speaker was speaking to you,” said Standring. But she added: “In the absence of a well-circulated policy, mistakes can and have happened.”
The NSNC president also noted that columnists write differently than reporters. “Although columnists are held strictly to the truth, they’re allowed more leeway in using prose and storytelling,” said Standring. “Let’s not take that away. While a columnist does own the responsibility for attribution and factual information, I believe it’s his/her call on how to convey it. Albom does have a point that if a quote is widely circulated, what’s the purpose of chewing up precious column space with redundant attribution?”
Standring is a self-syndicated columnist, and Albom’s work is distributed by Tribune Media Services.