By: Mark Fitzgerald
Ken Parish Perkins, who resigned from the Ft. Worth (Texas) Star-Telegram in November amid charges of plagiarism, returned to newspapers this week with a major cover story for the Chicago Defender.
Parish’s article, published in the Monday/Tuesday edition, received the splashy front-page treatment that Editor Roland Martin introduced on his arrival at the black-oriented tabloid daily. “Blackout?” a big headline asks over a montage of black actors, including a large photo of comedian Chris Rock giving a Black Power salute. “The merger between UPN and the WB networks could be a death-knell for a number of Black TV shows,” the subhead reads.
Editor Martin said he asked Perkins to do the story on a freelance basis because “I clearly wanted to do the story, and I thought he was the best writer to do it because he had the expertise, he has the contacts, and he was best situated to turn this around in a couple of days — which he did.”
In an interview Tuesday, Martin said Perkins is simply too talented and experienced to “be relegated to a non-journalism role” for the rest of his working life.
Perkins “certainly realizes the mistakes he’s made,” Martin added.
“My belief very simply is, if a black journalist — or any journalist — cannot find redemption with the black press, he can’t find redemption anywhere,” Martin added.
Perkins, 46, resigned in November after an editor at the rival Dallas Morning News alerted the Star-Telegram to a paragraph in a story on the TV series “Lost” that was worded exactly the same as an excerpt from an Entertainment Weekly story. In a column at the time, Star-Telegram Executive Editor Jim Witt said an investigation into previous stories “revealed several instances where Perkins either used a whole sentence or long phrases in sentences verbatim without giving credit or attribution,” which he said violated the paper’s ethics policy.
At the time, Perkins was one of just four African American TV critics at a daily newspaper, Richard Prince wrote in his online column “Journal-isms” on the Maynard Institute Web site.
Perkins explained in November that the paragraph had ended up in his story because he placed it there for its information and forgot to go back and change it. As for the other instances, Perkins attributed those in an interview with Prince to what he called his “fast write” writing style in which he writes furiously to get all the information down without editing until he is done. “For me, one of the drawbacks is that I’ve read things, it could have been long ago, and I don’t know whether I’ve read it somewhere else,” he told Prince. Perkins could not be reached Tuesday.
Defender Editor Martin said he expects to call Perkins to write other stories in the near future.
“Let’s not forget this is an NAACP Image Award winner, clearly one of the top talents in television writing,” Martin said. “Why let that talent go to waste? And I would say this, I would hope that if I were to commit some journalistic sin that it would be evaluated on the basis of my [complete] body of work. … I say evaluate the whole work.”