‘Star-Tribune’ Probe Backs Editorial Writer Accused of Plagiarism

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The Star Tribune said it found “improper and unfortunate” similarities between two of its editorials and pieces in The New Yorker magazine, but said it found no problems with any of the rest of editorial page writer Steve Berg’s work.

Berg, who had not been writing for the newspaper while the probe was under way, will return to writing on Jan. 2, editorial page editor Susan Albright wrote in early editions of Sunday’s newspaper published on Saturday.

“The two instances of non-attribution were improper and unfortunate; at the same time, we discerned no intent to deceive on the part of Berg, and his performance over 30 years has otherwise been exemplary,” she wrote.

The Star Tribune took a closer look at the past year’s worth of Berg’s work after similarities were found between editorials that ran Nov. 10 and March 27 and commentaries by The New Yorker’s Hendrik Hertzberg. The similarities were pointed out by the Twin Cities-based conservative blog Power Line, which frequently criticizes the Star Tribune.

For instance, a Nov. 6 New Yorker piece criticizing President Bush and the Republican Congress included this line: “(R)epeated efforts to suppress scientific truth; a set of economic and fiscal policies that have slowed growth, spurred inequality, replenished the ranks of the poor and uninsured, and exacerbated the insecurities of the middle class.”

The Star Tribune’s Nov. 10 editorial on the same subject read in part: “Then there’s the mounting deficit, the Katrina aftermath, the constant suppression of scientific truth, and the economic policies that exacerbate inequality, heighten middle-class anxiety and expand the ranks of the poor and uninsured.”

Albright had said Berg took notes on the Hertzberg piece and planned to attribute the material to him, but later failed to distinguish which parts were direct quotes and which were paraphrased ideas.

Berg said Saturday that the problems with attribution were minor.

“Reacting to a right-wing blog, the newspaper found unintentional insufficient attribution in a fraction of 1 percent of my work,” Berg said. “I’ll put that up against anybody.”

Telephone messages left Saturday for Albright at the Star Tribune were not immediately returned.

An e-mail sent to The New Yorker’s media relations department Saturday afternoon was not immediately returned.



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