By John Aloysius Farrell, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
An op-ed perch at the New York Times is a pretty enviable slot, even in the dying newspaper industry. So when you mess up, like Maureen Dowd did the other day, you hear about it.
Dowd took a boilerplate thought from a liberal blog and dropped it into her column without proper attribution. She has immediately been branded by some folks—"even like these to rail and sweat"—as a plagiarist.
There are hopeful predictions, among the paper's enemies, that the Times is on the brink of an integrity scandal.
Nonsense. Even a critical analysis of Maureen's work must acknowledge that she is renowned throughout the business for being particularly generous in attributing the work of others. She made a mistake, and corrected it. Time to move on.
The incident, however, has spurred the inevitable round of Internet Dowd-bashing. Dan Kennedy and other media critics accuse her of laziness, and "phoning it in."
Let's take a deep breath. Even at the august Times, it's a newspaper column ... not Jane Austen.
And nothing is tougher than being regularly funny in print. The folks who can do it for the course of a lifetime—like Jimmy Breslin and G.B. Trudeau—are true phenomena. While I might not rank Maureen in that class (she doesn't show their heart), she and the other Times columnists, as a group, are the best at what they do. They all have flaws, but if one has an off day, chances are that somebody else will dazzle elsewhere on the page that day, or the next.
Gail Collins was great during the campaign. These days, eh, not so much. But David Brooks has picked up the slack ... etc.
At the White House, Team Audacity has had an impressive opening act. It may take time, and some flailing around, for Maureen and others at the leftish Times to find the soft spots in an historic liberal presidency. There are only so many walks-on-water jokes, and Audacity tells them best on himself.
But give Dowd time. She'll find the range. They will yelp at the Executive Mansion. And we'll all wickedly chuckle.
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Updated on 05/19/09: The title of this blog post has been updated from an earlier version.