Jody Rosen’s Slate piece on a small, liberal Texas alt-weekly that appears to exclusively print plagiarized articles is a great, fun read and an awesomely bizarre story. The piece has only been up for a few hours, but it appears to have done some damage already: The paper’s website has been taken down entirely.
My first reaction when reading the piece was a sense of awe that this could have happened at all, much less gone on for so long. After all, the sources the paper cribbed from — Slate, Salon, USA Today — aren’t exactly unknown, niche publications. But on second thought, it seems perfectly plausible. USA Today has real national reach, of course, though I’d guess its impact is still primarily confined to large urban areas. And Slate and Salon, widely read and influential as they may be, just don’t have much reach outside of coastal urban centers. I remember looking at a map of the readership distribution for a fairly popular web magazine and being surprised by how much the readership was dominated by New York and D.C. Living in one of those cities, it’s easy to forget, but even the largest publications just don’t have much direct impact outside of a few media-obsessed cities.