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D-Lib Magazine
May 2003

Volume 9 Number 5

ISSN 1082-9873

Getting It Right

by Bonita Wilson

Two widely reported news items and follow-on commentaries this week have reinforced our ongoing determination to ensure the accuracy of D-Lib Magazine content.

The first concerns Jayson Blair, who allegedly fabricated parts of several articles he wrote as a reporter for the New York Times [1]. The other, somewhat related item had to do with a new book by author Stephen Glass, who five years ago was dismissed by The New Republic for making up many of the stories he had written for that magazine. Glass' autobiographical novel (a real book of fiction) entitled The Fabulist [2] has as its protagonist a journalist who makes up stories.

As frequently happens when the media finds one of its own guilty of plagiarism, lying, or embellishing facts, these two items about Blair and Glass became hot topics for much of this week. As Beth Mnookin wrote in Newsweek, "plagiarism, and even outright fraud, can occur at any news organization...As commentators have noted, the normal journalistic checks and balances are put in place with the assumption that everyone—reporters, editors and readers—shares an interest in getting to the truth" [3].

Of course, D-Lib Magazine is not a newspaper, nor is it primarily a news journal. Its article authors have a much different purpose in writing—that purpose being to report on results of their own research and development projects. Nevertheless, as editor of D-Lib Magazine, it is my responsibility to be concerned about the accuracy of the content of articles and other features published in this magazine.

So, what safeguards are put in place by D-Lib Magazine to earn and maintain the trust of its readers? Whether or not a particular author has been invited to contribute to D-Lib, each article submitted for publication is read and considered by the editor and at least one and sometimes two or more colleagues before it is accepted. Authors of unsolicited manuscripts are asked to provide information about themselves and their current work, and to list other articles and papers they have authored. A few days prior to publication, each issue of the magazine is again reviewed internally. In addition, the close-to-final version is made available for author/contributor review three days before the magazine is publicly released. Lastly, as a failsafe, D-Lib welcomes letters to the editor from readers who may question or wish to comment about a particular article or feature published in the magazine. If inaccuracies are detected and the magazine notified, the editor acts to correct the erroneous information.

Do these policies guarantee that nothing inaccurate appears in D-Lib? No, that's impossible. But D-Lib Magazine works hard to merit the trust of its readers, knowing full well that once such trust is lost, it may be difficult to regain.


Bonita Wilson

[1] Barry, Dan et al. "Times Reporter Who Resigned Leaves Long Trail of Deception." The New York Times (Online Edition), May 13, 2003.

[2] Glass, Stephen. The Fabulist: A Novel, Simon & Schuster, 2003, ISBN: 0743227123.

[3] Mnookin, Beth. "A Journalist's Hard Fall," Newsweek, May 19, 2003, pp 40-41.

Copyright© 2003 Corporation for National Research Initiatives

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DOI: 10.1045/may2003-editorial