"When we learned our favorite media muckraker, City Paper reporter ... Gadi Dechter, was taking a new job at The Sun, we were shocked. Shocked!" writes Baltimore magazine's Geoff Brown. The July announcement was surprising because Dechter had repeatedly criticized the daily, most notably exposing instances of plagiarism by columnist Michael Olesker. Dechter says he "was never bored at City Paper," and calls it "the best job I ever had." Van Smith, the City Paper's political reporter, wishes that the alt-weekly had been able to keep Dechter on board: "It would be good for Baltimore storytelling to have Gadi at City Paper," he says.
Gadi Dechter, author of the Baltimore City Paper's "Media Circus" column, will no longer write for the weekly. "Dechter did such a fine job reporting on The Sun ... over the past couple of years that the daily recently up and hired him," notes City Paper Editor Lee Gardner in this week's issue. (The editor's note is here, bottom of the page.) Most notably, in January Dechter exposed instances of plagiarism by veteran Sun columnist Michael Olesker, who then resigned.
In January, City Paper writer Gadi Dechter exposed several instances of plagiarism by Michael Olesker, a columnist at the Baltimore Sun, which he found through searches of the LexisNexis database. The Sun's editors followed up on the charges with a laborious manual search of the newspaper's archives. In a Feb. 15 column, Dechter explores the reasons why the Sun's editors chose not to use the plagiarism-detecting software CopyGuard and then puts it to the test, using Olesker's work as the guinea pig. The results: the software works fairly well, and even exposed one case where another journalist appeared to plagiarize Olesker.
This week's issue contains a defense of former Baltimore Sun columnist Michael Olesker by former Sun writer David Simon. Olesker was asked to retire earlier this month after City Paper's Gadi Dechter found that Olesker had lifted language from other writers at the Sun, the New York Times and the Washington Post. Simon argues that "most reporting -- unless it utilizes confidential sources or results from some investigative effort or special project -- has a short shelf life before it becomes nonproprietary," and says that if Olesker is a plagiarist, so are all journalists.
Gadi Dechter, who writes the City Paper's biweekly Media Circus column, found several examples of similar language between Michael Olesker's columns in the Baltimore Sun and work by other writers in the Sun, the New York Times and the Washingon Post. Dechter decided to pursue the story after a Dec. 24 correction of an Olesker column referred to a failure of attribution rather than plagiarism. The Sun's city editor initially told Dechter that there would be no further investigation of Olesker, so Dechter and a research assistant took on the process of checking language from Olesker's past columns against the LexisNexis database. "There was something unusual in the correction, as if it were just a mistake," Dechter says. "Olesker is kind of an institution here in Baltimore, so I set about checking it out." A story in the Sun this morning announced that Olesker had resigned.
The Baltimore Sun's Edward Gunts will be forced to liquidate his real-estate investments as the result of an article in City Paper noting that the architecture critic has written extensively about the neighborhoods in which the properties are located. When Gadi Dechter's piece was published in the City Paper, "what was being treated as an internal personnel matter became news," says Paul Moore, the Sun's ombudsman. Moore also says that while "Gunts had no nefarious intent to use his position for personal gain ... it also is clear that (he) should not be investing in Baltimore real estate while writing about architecture here."