Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Did the NY Observer plagiarize a Radar trend story?
In today's New York Observer ran a saucy trend piece by Joe Pompeo titled "The Hipster Rent Boys Of New York," whose dek explains the story: "No more L train for us! In frigid economy, striving young men are turning to the oldest profession to make the city work for them."
In other words, prostitution among twentysomething, possibly-gay, Williamsburg, Brooklyn-inhabiting hipsters.
But a colleague of mine suggested that he had read this story somewhere else, not long ago...yes, that's it! It was in Radar's September issue, by Jessica Pilot, titled, "Secrets of a Hipster Hooker," with a dek that reads: "The author's friends are stylish, well-educated, and professionally successful young women in New York City. They also turn tricks on the side for $2,000 an hour. One day she decided to follow in their footsteps."
Now, the story isn't plagiarized in the most common sense, in that it's copied word-for-word. It's more an intellectual property plagiarism -- you know, running the same story in the same market in almost the same time frame (five months).
Any good editor would deny a reporter who came to him or her with this "idea." But did Pompeo copy Pilot? And who was reporting the story first?
Hard to say, and there are differences: Pilot's story is about women, whereas Pompeo's is about men. Pilot's story was written pre-recession; Pompeo's uses it as a motive for the prostitution.
So it's fair game, right?
Well, what if I told you they quote the same source as their token "expert"? (That would be Sudhir Venkatesh, a sociology professor at Columbia University whose expertise lies in high-end male and female escorts.)
What if they use the same obvious Eliot Spitzer-Ashley Dupre foil in the story?
Now what do you think?
For me, it's a little too close for comfort.