Favorite

Lucky 13 

THE BIRD: It's been going around.
  • THE BIRD: It's been going around.

While we’re not much on recounting the news from our own dugout around here, one recent dust-up involving the Arkansas Times bears repeating — at least the influential journo-mag Editor and Publisher thinks so.

Readers of the Times might remember a cover story from June of last year, written by managing editor Leslie Peacock, about the then-recently-rediscovered ivory-billed woodpecker. Looking for a novel way to address what had by then become the most famous fowl in the world, Peacock hit upon the idea of constructing her story around the framework of poet Wallace Stevens’ “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.” In bold type set into the text, she referred to Stevens’ poem to introduce 13 vignettes, each detailing some aspect of the way the scientific or pop-culture community viewed the discovery of an avian Loch Ness monster. It was — to toot our own horn — something of a little masterpiece, admired enough that it was reprinted a little over a month later in the Memphis Flyer, the alt-weekly of that city across the river.

While this week’s genius is usually next week’s birdcage liner, a funny thing happened on the way to the landfill. In the May 7 edition of the New York Times Sunday Magazine, there appeared a story by freelance writer Jack Hitt headlined “13 Ways of Looking at an Ivory Billed Woodpecker.”

Like Peacock’s story, it recounted the clandestine hunt for the woodpecker, and was broken into 13 sections.

Coincidence? We’ll leave that up to you. The similarities were enough that a couple of publications took note: Editor and Publisher magazine and the Memphis Flyer, whose editor Bruce VanWyngarden put an angry missive title — “13 Ways to Steal a Story Concept” — on the Flyer website the day after the NYT story. “It may not exactly be plagiarism, but it is damn close,” VanWyngarden wrote.

Though Peacock winged a letter to the New York Times, she has so far received no response from the newspaper. She did, however, get a call from Hitt, who said he’d never read her piece and was a fan of Wallace Stevens.

Editor and Publisher did get a response from the New York Times. Spokesperson Catherine Mathis told E&P: “None of the editors who worked on the story, nor Mr. Hitt, had heard of the Arkansas Times or Memphis Flyer articles until this week. The ivory-billed woodpecker has been much in the news, in our paper and elsewhere, and Mr. Hitt’s decision to write about the controversy came out of his own interest in birding, and in the South. The headline was written by the editors, though the idea was inherent in the piece.”

Read Peacock’s original cover story at www.arktimes.com.



Jonesboro ABC affiliate KAIT, Channel 8, was one of 77 television stations nationwide caught with their hand in the cookie jar by an April report on video news releases. Conducted by the Center for Media and Democracy, a media think-tank based in Madison, Wis., the year-long study tracked the nationwide use of 36 VNRs — “fake news” stories produced by public relations firms for corporations, government agencies, non-profits and the like, subtly espousing their clients’ products or services. Distributed to television stations across the country, VNRs are often broadcast unedited by stations as news content, without disclosing their origin to viewers.

Researchers for the Center for Media and Democracy found that KAIT used VNR footage twice between June 2005 and March 2006. On its Nov. 4, 2005, newscast, KAIT broadcast a VNR created for the financial firm Trend Micro on the online scam called “phishing.” Later, during their Jan. 26, 2006, newscast, the station aired a VNR created for General Motors, which detailed the behind-the-scenes making of Cadillac’s Super Bowl commercial. In both instances, the study says, the station never disclosed that the content was created by an outside source.

You can read the entire report at www.prwatch.org/fakenews/execsummary.



’Pecker envy.

david@arktimes.com

Favorite

Tags:

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by David Koon

  • Fast forward in Blytheville

    The East Coast Timing Association held its Arkansas 1-Mile Challenge in September, where racers from all over the country mixed gasoline, steel and passion in the pursuit of raw speed.
    • Oct 11, 2018
  • Tough mothers, demanding action

    Interest in the gun violence prevention group Moms Demand Action has exploded since the massacre at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High in Florida. Leaders here say they're in the battle for 'gun sense' until the job is done.
    • Apr 5, 2018
  • The Griffin

    El Dorado's new restaurant showplace is worth the drive.
    • Mar 15, 2018
  • More »

Latest in Media

  • UA cozy with D-G columnist

    An interesting element of the ongoing story of budget problems in the University of Arkansas Advancement Division has been a divide in outlook in the pages of the state's dominant news medium, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
    • Nov 21, 2013
  • Democrat-Gazette covers one of its own in story of reporter Cathy Frye's rescue

    The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's reports on the rescue of its reporter Cathy Frye, who was missing for days in the hot scrubby desert that is Big Bend Ranch State Park, are gripping.
    • Oct 10, 2013
  • Hodge shares his OA vision

    Roger Hodge, the new editor of Oxford American magazine, talked about his rise at Harper's, his writing philosophy and his plans for the OA before a full crowd last Wednesday at the Clinton School.
    • Sep 26, 2012
  • More »

Most Viewed

  • No leash

    Living as I do in the remote provinces, I often find myself fascinated by the cultural advances of America's great metropolises. Last week, for example, The New York Times featured an entertaining column urging people to walk cats on leashes. If I tried that, I'd definitely have a fight on my hands.
  • Beware of 'unity'

    Beware the sweet lull of that siren song calling for "unity" and for us to "come together." It's the latest incarnation of the call for "civility," and just as dangerous.
  • Hope and change LR

    While I was away, Frank Scott Jr. won a historic victory in a runoff with Baker Kurrus to succeed Mark Stodola as Little Rock mayor.
  • Sex and Trump

    No one, least of all Donald Trump, should be surprised when sex puts him in mortal jeopardy, which seemed to be the case last week when his personal lawyer pleaded guilty to violating the law by arranging $280,000 in hush payments to a porn actress and a Playboy model who were prepared to tell voters about having sex with him.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Herd shifts

    • Uh-oh, the Investigator's playing off the bottom of the deck. That quote is from a…

    • on December 13, 2018
  • Re: No leash

    • Love this. So funny- so very hard to do.

    • on December 13, 2018
  • Re: No leash

    • The local Humane Society surprised me this week when it marched in the Arkadelphia Christmas…

    • on December 13, 2018
 

© 2018 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation