Author Gerald Posner acknowledges failure to source material for new book

By Hillel Italie, AP
Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Posner says he failed to source material for book

NEW YORK — An author and journalist who resigned last month from the Internet news site The Daily Beast over allegations of lifting material acknowledged that passages in his latest book are similar to those of another writer.

Gerald Posner, whose many books include “Case Closed” and “Secrets of the Kingdom,” said in an interview with The Associated Press that a flawed research methodology for “Miami Babylon,” a nonfiction work released last fall by Simon & Schuster, led him to use text from Frank Owen’s “Clubland” without giving proper credit.

“If you use something from another book, a statement from another book, it needs to be in quotations, or if you take something and put it in your own syntax and grammar, you still need to cite it,” Posner said Wednesday, adding that he would revise the material in question and would check the rest of the book for possible problems.

“I do think that the Frank Owen situation may be unique for me. Without going through every line I can’t be 100 percent sure, but I think that is the only case.”

The Miami New Times reported the similarities Tuesday night.

David Rosenthal, executive vice president and publisher of Simon & Schuster, said in a statement Wednesday: “We are reviewing the situation and discussing the issues with the author.”

In February, Posner stepped down as chief investigative reporter of The Daily Beast after a writer for noted several instances in which Posner took material from Miami Herald articles without attribution. Posner wrote on his Web site at the time that he “inadvertently” copied the passages into master files and that he “lost sight” that the material belonged to a published source.

“The core of my problem was in shifting from that of a book writer — with two years or more on a project — to what I describe as the ‘warp speed of the Net,’” he wrote.

German author Helene Hegemann recently acknowledged copying text for her novel “Axolotl Roadkill,” but defended her actions, saying writers should be allowed to get their material from anywhere.

“Babylon” describes the shady characters over the past century on Miami Beach, Fla., from Al Capone getting in on its bootlegging business, to cocaine dealers. The book shows how the criminals were intertwined with politicians, club owners and real estate developers in the wealthy, flashy area.

Among the passages in question are a description of the indictment of former Miami nightclub owner Chris Paciello.

In “Clubland,” published in 2003, Owen wrote: “On November 23, 1999, a federal grand jury in Brooklyn returned a sealed indictment against Paciello and eight other defendants, all connected to the Bonanno crime family, charging them with multiple counts of murder, robbery, and racketeering. Later that same evening, Bonanno captain Anthony Graziano telephoned Paciello.”

Posner’s account reads: “On November 23, 1999, a federal grand jury in Brooklyn returned a sealed indictment against Paciello and eight other defendants, all of them connected to the Bonanno crime family. They were charged with numerous murder, robbery, and racketeering counts. Later the same day, at around seven in the evening, Bonanno captain Anthony Graziano called Paciello.”

Posner said he scanned many documents and books he used for “Babylon,” including from “Clubland,” into a computer database instead of working with the documents all in front of him, as he had done in previous books. Since the book took years to write, he said he should have marked the passages from other sources much better, so that when he went back to work on the chapters, he would be certain which were his words and which were others.

Some of the passages are similar but not identical because he edited them, he said.

He pointed out that “Babylon” included countless hours of original reporting. He said he interviewed hundreds of people and sifted through thousands of pages of documents from court cases and political meetings when researching the book.

“There is no worse word than the ‘p’ word — plagiarism” in journalism, Posner said. “It conjures up the worst elements of the business.”


Associated Press Writer Carol Druga in Miami contributed to this report.

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