DETROIT - An extensive review of Mitch Albom’s columns in the Detroit Free Press found the best-selling author sometimes used quotes from other news outlets without giving proper credit, the paper reported Monday.
After going over more than 600 of his columns, the Free Press said Albom has used quotes from newspapers, TV programs or other publications without showing that he got the material elsewhere, violating the newspaper’s rules on crediting sources.
Carole Leigh Hutton, publisher and editor of the Free Press, said the problems reflect a lack of familiarity with the paper’s rules on attribution and pledged to take steps to address them.
The investigation was prompted by an April 3 column in which Albom wrote that former Michigan State players Mateen Cleaves and Jason Richardson attended the Michigan State-North Carolina NCAA semifinal on April 2. He reported that the players “sat in the stands, in their MSU clothing, and rooted on their alma mater.” Neither player was at the game.
The paper previously said Albom and four other employees were disciplined because of the column but didn’t detail the punishment. The paper also assigned five reporters and an editor to investigate Albom’s work, which turned up no pattern of inaccuracies.
Albom, host of a nationally syndicated radio talk show and author of the best-selling books “Tuesdays With Morrie” and “The Five People You Meet in Heaven,” previously apologized for the erroneous column. He said in a statement Monday, “I have always been proud of my journalism, and I am glad that this long investigation has validated my hard work and my reputation.”
In the Free Press review, Albom defended his approach on using quotes from other sources, which he said editors had approved. He argued that it is more important for columnists to use quotes accurately than to identify where they came from. He also said many of the quotes were widely disseminated in the national media before his columns ran.
However, some of the quotes Albom used were obtained exclusively by particular media organizations.
In one example cited by the Free Press, Albom used a quote from a New York Observer interview with Jayson Blair, a New York Times reporter found to have plagiarized or fabricated elements in dozens of stories. In the May 2003 interview, Blair said: “So Jayson Blair the human being could live, Jayson Blair the journalist had to die.”
Six days later, Albom also used the quote, but didn’t credit the Observer.
The newspaper also said some quotes cited by Albom were worded slightly differently from the way they appeared elsewhere. Albom insisted the passages were “essentially accurate.”
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