Reporter fired by WIRED had been dismissed by newspaper for missing deadlines

Screen Shot 2016-02-25 at 5.21.28 PMWe have learned that Nic Cavell, who was dismissed last week from WIRED for plagiarizing in several stories for the publication’s website, was fired from another publication for missing deadlines.

Before Cavell was selected to be a 2016 reporting fellow at WIRED magazine — a paid six-month position for promising young reporters — he wrote on the crime beat for The Riverdale Pressa Bronx paper. His 20 bylines span February 2015 to June 2015. We have learned from a source who wished to remain anonymous that he was let go after he had trouble handing in those stories on time.

Riverdale Press editor Shant Shahrigian, who declined to comment on the reasons for Cavell’s departure, told us that he had not encountered plagiarism in the reporter’s work:

Nic, who has not worked for The Riverdale Press since last summer, was not here for long. But during that time, I never saw this kind of issue.

We have been unable to reach Cavell for comment.

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10 thoughts on “Reporter fired by WIRED had been dismissed by newspaper for missing deadlines”

  1. This story doesn’t about a reporter missing deadlines doesn’t seem like it has much to do with the mission statement of Retraction Watch.

  2. It seems disproportionate to highlight this in online posts like this that will be around forever – he’s just a kid and still learning.
    It also sounds like the real failure was in management. Anyone who’s been an editor knows that interns and new recruits don’t know the rules and often make mistakes like these – and its the managers’ job to catch it and put it right.
    WIRED failed to do that – but they are blaming the intern, not themselves. I don’t know all the background but it seems disgusting behaviour.
    Ivan – shouldnt you really be pushing WIRED on why it is letting an intern write & publish without subbing and fact-checking? That was totally unprofessional in itself. And on why they went public and ruined a kid’s reputation – presumably hoping it would save theirs.

  3. I’m discouraged by the direction that Retraction Watch (RW) has taken lately. Pursuing this kid through his previous employers seems a witch hunt, when the real fault would seem to lie with Wired. I also agree with “Bobo” above, that this story doesn’t have much to do with the RW mission statement.
    Unless the goal is to show that science isn’t alone in being imperfect, I see no interest at all in plagiarism in the media. We all know that the media gets it wrong much of the time. One only has to look at recent political coverage in the media, which discusses a national election as if it’s a horse race, without examining any of the important issues critically, to know that most media outlets are filled with stories that are shallow, callow, and often hollow.
    Finally, I’ve been disengaged from the whole issue of retractions because I see this line of inquiry as feeding into right-wing anti-science concerns and general science skepticism. Sure, scientists get it wrong a lot and some scientists fake their way to fame. But science as an endeavor is one of the LEAST flawed things I know.
    The world is hard to understand and science provides the only legitimate way I know of to achieve understanding. That some scientists fall short of a real effort to understand does not fault the process and certainly should not taint most of those who engage in the process.
    How about a series of stories about how often people in other fields are wrong and how there is no penalty whatsoever for being wrong? I’m thinking of that well-known TV “personality” who advised everyone to “Buy, buy, buy”, the day before the bottom fell out of the stock market in 2009. Or the endless weather forecasts that aren’t even close to accurate. Or the political polls that only predict how aggressive a candidate will be in promoting the results of that poll. Or the economic forecasts spouted by pundits and “experts” who seem not to understand macroeconomic forces at all. Or the politicians willing to assault the truth in order to get elected. I could go on….
    On the whole, science is a powerful force for good and most scientists engage in their chosen profession with honor and integrity. And RW seems to have lost perspective on that.

  4. It’s maybe also worth noting that the Wired fellowship pays $12.25 /HR, lasts 6 months and is based in San Francisco. At least some people who do that internship have their masters degrees. If Wired wants to run pro journalist work, perhaps they shouldn’t pay high school wages.

    1. My friend has a Master in journalism and was quite lucky to find a permanent full-time job that pays her below the poverty line.

      Unless you’re working on a major TV outlet (and most grad-school journalism majors would rather work in print), journalism salaries are quite meagre across the board. They’re good at getting your name out there so you have a body of work you can point to to get book deals, etc.

      The Retraction Watch internship that they advertised a while back is actually very well paid.

  5. Jonathan Leake
    Anyone who’s been an editor knows that interns and new recruits don’t know the rules and often make mistakes like these – and its the managers’ job to catch it and put it right.

    New recruits don’t know they’re not supposed to commit plagiarism? What exactly are they taught in journalism school, then? I would’ve thought that’d be lesson #1.

  6. Maybe it should. But the practical fact is that interns and trainees make lots of mistakes and have to be monitored. Hence the term TRAINee. Letting them write directly without checking is unfair on them and asking for trouble.

    1. I agree that editors should be checking on this sort of thing — but because they have an obligation to the readers, not because it is somehow “unfair” to new employees to expect them not to steal someone else’s work. I also think that describing plagiarism as an innocent “mistake” may be reasonable for a high schooler or a college freshman who hasn’t been taught the rules yet, but it strikes me as preposterous to suggest that someone in Mr. Cavell’s situation simply doesn’t know any better.

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