Via Noel Sheppard at NewBusters, here’s the Laura Ingraham segment from her guest-hosting stint on the O’Reilly Factor last week (full transcript at link):
Positivity: What the Declaration’s Signers Endured (and What Happened 11 Years Ago to a Columnist Who Wrote About It)
Note: This post is a July 4 BizzyBlog tradition. It belongs in Positivity because the sacrifices of those involved contributed to the founding of these United States.
The column below is, for reasons described in “Background” below, unenforceably copyright © 2000 Boston Globe, and is reposted here in full for discussion, critique, and educational purposes only, pursuant to the fair use exemption of copyright law.
Background: In July 2000, veteran Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby (pictured at right, c. 2004) wrote the column that appears below.
After publication, his ignorant editors (putting it kindly) felt that he should have included a line pointing out that he was far from the first to write about the fates of the Declaration’s signers. Because he hadn’t, Jacoby was suspended for four months without pay. Note that The Globe did not, because they could not, suspend him for plagiarism.
Jacoby’s full response to his suspension is here. His most important points were these:
In short, whatever-happened-to-the-signers is an old, old theme in American inspirational writing …. These stories have been repeated so often, and by so many people, that they have risen to the level of American legend. Which is why it didn’t occur to me to take up valuable space in the column with footnotes or citations to earlier versions….
…. I care greatly about accuracy. Knowing that previous treatments of the lives-of-the-signers theme contained mistakes and exaggerations, I tried to take pains not to repeat anything untrue. As best as I could given the constraints of a deadline, I double-checked the biographical information I had, using encyclopedias of American history, books on the American Revolution, and relevant web sites, such as the one at www.colonialhall.com.
Many online and print readers of Jacoby’s columns (I believe that The Globe never did tell us how many) protested his suspension, including me. My protest e-mail to the Globe’s ombudsman said, in part:
Repeat after me, sir: FACTUAL history, especially from over 200 years ago, is public domain, and once verified and researched, does not have to be attributed. Your position is akin to having to look in three dictionaries to get to the meaning of every word and then having to cite those dictionaries every single time.
Where Jacoby found this factual history, whether “in a short book … by Paul Harvey,” “……in a widely circulated e-mail,” on a paper napkin, or on toilet paper is, after the fact-checking that YOU acknowledge he did, (repeat after me) IRRELEVANT.
The Globe did not reconsider the suspension. Matt Drudge “suspended” the Boston Globe’s link at his web site during the term of Jacoby’s suspension. Many online users “suspended” The Globe by refusing to read anything it published during that time, and more than a few print readers cancelled their subscriptions.
Upon learning of the suspension, Joe Farah of World Net Daily wrote:
I have read Jacoby’s column. I have read other works that inspired it. In my professional and expert opinion, this is not plagiarism. Neither is it a close call. It is, simply, the kind of derivative journalism that we read in American newspapers every single day — online and off. Jacoby did nothing wrong.
In fact, the only thing he is guilty of is writing a first-rate Independence Day column that reminded Americans of the great sacrifice our founders made for the freedom we enjoy. And that, I suspect, is what really bugs the politically correct crowd at the Boston Globe.
Indeed. Which is why, on this Independence Day, I am posting that column, omitting additional information about Thomas Nelson Jr. that Jacoby subsequently found to be inaccurate.
So we never forget.
Fifty-Six Great Risk-Takers
By Jeff Jacoby
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