Spectator plagiarism incident 2012

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The 2012 Spectator plagiarism incident occurred in September 2012, when Jade Bonacolta, an Arts & Entertainment deputy at the Columbia Daily Spectator, was accused of plagiarizing a New York Times article about a Frank Lloyd Wright exhibit. The similarities between the two articles were first discovered by IvyGate.[1] The incident was also covered by Bwog and the journalism blogs Poynter and Romenesko.[2][3][4]


Alleged Plagiarism

These are the three paragraphs that Bonacolta allegedly plagiarized from the New York Times.[5]

New York Times:

The Modernist architect Frank Lloyd Wright wasn’t a hoarder. But he did save just about everything — whether a doodle on a Plaza Hotel cocktail napkin of an imagined city on Ellis Island, his earliest pencil sketch of the spiraling Guggenheim Museum or a model of Broadacre City, his utopian metropolis. Since Wright’s death in 1959 those relics have been locked in storage at his former headquarters —Taliesin, in Spring Green, Wis., and Taliesin West, in Scottsdale, Ariz.


Frank Lloyd Wright was notorious for saving everything, from his personal correspondence to scribbles on Plaza Hotel napkins. Since Wright’s death in 1959, these relics have been locked in storage.

New York Times:

Among the gems in that material are drawings for Wright’s Fallingwater, a home cantilevered over a stream in Mill Run, Pa.; the Robie House, a Prairie-style building on the University of Chicago campus; Unity Temple, a Unitarian Universalist church in Oak Park, Ill.; and Taliesin West.


Among the University’s future collection are the famous original drawings for Wright’s Fallingwater, a home designed amid a rushing stream in Pennsylvania, and the Robie House, a Prairie-style building on the campus of the University of Chicago.

New York Times:

While Wright is typically thought of as "a lonely genius," Mr. Bergdoll said, "you move him into the Museum of Modern Art, and he’s dialoguing with Le Corbusier in the company of Mies van der Rohe, Alvar Aalto and Louis Kahn."


"While Wright is typically thought of as a lonely genius, you move him into the Museum of Modern Art, and he’s dialoguing with Le Corbusier in the company of Mies van der Rohe, Alvar Aalto, and Louis Kahn," said Barry Bergdoll, chief curator of architecture and design at the MoMA.


After a short internal investigation, the article was replaced with an editor's note.[6]

Editor's note: It has come to our attention by a post on the blog IvyGate that portions of this story as originally published contain similarities to a New York Times article published on September 3 on the same topic. We are currently reviewing the story and have removed it until we determine the extent of those similarities.

That editor's note was later updated.

Editor's note, updated: Spectator is committed to accurate and original reporting, and we have retracted this story after verifying that at least three paragraphs were largely identical to those in the New York Times piece. We will be reviewing the writer's other work and will update readers as we know more.

The next day, Spectator editor Sarah Darville announced that Bonacolta had been fired.[7]

We have absolutely no tolerance for plagiarism, and Jade's relationship with Spectator has been terminated.

Many people considered Bwog's coverage of the incident to be sensationalist and tasteless, particularly their joke about "turn[ing] Spec into a 3-story Pinkberry."[8] The incident only worsened Bwog/Spec relations.


  1. "Did the Columbia Spectator pull a Jonah Lehrer?" IvyGate 9/7/12
  2. "Spectator Editor Plagiarizes New York Times Article" Bwog 9/7/13
  3. "Columbia Spectator fires editor who plagiarized from New York Times article" Poynter 9/7/12
  4. "Columbia Spectator Fires Staffer for Plagiarism" Romenesko 9/7/12
  5. "Here Are the Three Paragraphs a Columbia Spectator Editor Plagiarized from the New York Times" IvyGate 9/6/12
  6. Editor's Note on article
  7. Editor's note announcing Bonacolta's termination
  8. Critical comments on Bwog article

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