Edward Guthmann, Plagiarist?

Looks like San Francisco Chronicle reporter Edward Guthmann has been caught plagiarizing the New Yorker. I’m truly sorry to hear this, as I had several great conversations with Guthmann back in the days when I practiced film criticism and though him a decent person and a decent writer. Knowing what little I know about Guthmann, I’m truly shocked that he did this.

[1/25/06 UPDATE: I’ve been in touch with Edward Guthmann. There are a few things that should be noted:

1. According to this SF Weekly piece, Guthmann confesses that the so-called plagiarism was unintentional, “During the months I worked on the piece, I gathered a huge amount of research and interview transcripts that I stored in computer files. At one point, I read about the 1,000th suicide in the New Yorker article and pasted two sentences in my text as a ‘flag’ — a reminder to myself to mention the fact. But when I went back to the piece, which may have been days later since I had other work during that time, I forgot those weren’t my words. I should have set them in boldface or larger type, or not moved them at all. Huge mistake — and especially heartbreaking, since I worked so hard on the piece and, apart from those two sentences, I think it’s my best work.”

2. During the course of the online investigation, nobody (including myself) thought to contact Guthmann himself. While the Vidiot’s coverage was quite fair, hopefully this will serve as a reminder to bloggers that it’s important to hear multiple sides of the story, particularly the persons who are accused of the charges.

I leave all the results here for readers to make up their minds.]

[1/25/06 UPDATE 2: Vidiot informs me that Guthmann was cc’d in his email to the Chronicle ombudsman. So there were some efforts to contact Guthmann.]


  1. Hi! What is this about my old friend Edward Guthmann? I, for one, would never believe it. He is incredibly talented and sensitive — and I have known him for 40 years — we had Journalism together in high school. Where can I read more about this allegation? Anyway, I found your Website by punching in Edward’s name — and your site is delightful. I shall enjoy “The Return of the Reluctant.” Write on!

  2. Edward Guthmann is an extremely talented writer and a very handsome man (not that it matters). He would never plaigarize, certainly not the New Yorker. After all he’s written for the New Yorker. The trouble with bloggers is that they don’t need or usually even desire or take the trouble to CHECK THEIR FACTS. FURTHERMORE, check your copyright rules too…. two sentences don’t even need to be in quotes, for gawd’s sake. Sheesh. There isn’t any new [written] under the sun anyway. Everything, these days, is a QUOTE. Labor on, Edward, those of us who love you know you for the real person you are.
    With love, and a hui hou!

  3. Violet Weed, I stand by my article. Which facts have I gotten wrong?

    And it’s not an issue of copyright. It’s an issue of plagiarism.

  4. This is ancient history! Edward Guthmann continues to work at The San Francisco Chroncile and I know the charges against him were ultimately cleared. But seeing this item still being circulated is painful to Edward and his friends, who know him as a fastidious and careful reporter for decades. I was his editor at The Advocate for several years in the late-1980s and remember him as a very thoughtful and careful writer. So naturally seeing this controversery still in print strikes me as unnecessary and unfair.

  5. I worked as an editor and writer at the Chronicle for 25 years, until I left in October 2008, and I was at The Chronicle when the article in question came out. The paper did a thorough investigation at that time and determined that Edward’s error was in fact inadvertent, not a case of plagiarism. Had it been intentional plagiarism, the paper would have terminated his employment. The fact that it didn’t proves this. Continuing to keep this incorrect story on your site for three years is unfairly damaging the reputation of an excellent writer and a true professional. If you care about truth in journalism, please remove this story from your site.

  6. No, I won’t remove this story. To do so would hardly be journalistic at all. Such tactics are more reminiscent of Soviet revisionism. And real journalism does not pick sides. Guthmann’s side of the story is here. We talked years ago, and I gave him a fair chance to respond. The accounts presented by Vidiot and myself are here. The readers can make up their own minds about what happened. THAT is journalism. And for what it’s worth, I am now really sick of Guthmann’s cronies contacting me out of the blue. To the point where I am now permanently inflexible. You “ace journalists” clearly haven’t observed the question mark in the title, which I agreed to include in light of Guthmann’s subsequent claims. So please stop. The story is up. You’re invited to comment, if you must. But this has become completely ridiculous. Plagiarism is plagiarism, whether deliberate or not. And unlike the tendentious, I actually have faith in the intelligence and independent minds of my readers. They can agree. They can disagree.

  7. Edward Guthmann continues to work at The San Francisco Chroncile and I know the charges against him were ultimately cleared.

  8. Hi, I knew Edward Guthmann back in the day and he would not plagiarize. You appear to be talking about two friggin’ sentences. Accidents happen, especially with cut and paste and notations that might inadvertently get mismanaged. Two sentences. I don’t know you but it is too bad you feel the need to hold the torch for something so irrelevant. I don’t even know who you are, but I get the picture.

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