A Note on User Copying

Today’s New York Times runs this revealing Editor’s Note on the Letters page:

A letter in most editions yesterday, by Syed Waris Shere, writing from Brooklyn, discussed Vice President Dick Cheney and the verdict in the trial of I. Lewis Libby Jr.

After the newspaper started printing, the letter was posted on our Web site, where an alert reader, to whom we are extremely grateful, noticed that almost all of the letter had been copied from an article about Mr. Cheney and the trial from the previous day’s newspaper. The letter included parts of sentences written by a Times reporter and sentences taken from quotations in the article.

Mr. Shere said by telephone yesterday that he had intended to attribute all the copied passages in the letter, and regrets not having done so.

As soon as we learned of the problem, we removed the letter from our Web site, and from remaining copies of the paper that had not yet been printed.

On the handful of occasions when the Times has accepted my letters for publication, the relevant editor contacted me personally before publication and obtained my assurance that the writing was original and previously unpublished.  Has that practice been abandoned, even in part?