Social Media, Greensboro Sit Ins, Malcolm Gladwell and Potential Plagiarism

In an extensive piece that explores whether or not Malcolm Gladwell engaged in plagiarism for several articles he wrote for The New Yorker, Our Bad Media cites a 1970 book on the Greensboro sit ins as one of the sources he allegedly copied without attribution. From the Our Bad Media piece:

In his 2010 New Yorker column “Small Change,” Gladwell took a skeptical look at the use of social media as a tool for activists, discussing the often over-hyped impact of Facebook and Twitter’s effects on protests around the world. He drew parallels throughout the piece to the civil rights movement, mostly by recounting the story of the historic 1960 Greensboro sit-ins, when four black college students began a protest at Woolworth’s over its whites-only lunch counter.

Whereas the previous examples may have been limited in scope, the entirety of Gladwell’s description of the Greensboro sit-ins in his column—including quotes, descriptions of the Woolworth’s, and the sequence of events—are lifted from Miles Wolff’s authoritative but obscure 1970 book, Lunch at the Five and Ten.

We double-checked the print versions of The New Yorker to check if the online edition omitted any attributions or citations. It doesn’t. Gladwell again makes no mention of the author or his book despite building an entire column around it.

Below are the side-by-side comparisons of all Greensboro-related passages from the print edition of Gladwell’s article (in order) and the relevant passages from Wolff’s book.

If you follow the link to the post you’ll find close to a dozen excerpts from Gladwell’s article that match passages from the book. Methinks he might be in some hot water.

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