When a journalist gets caught plagiarizing the first time, he can usually duck the charge by claiming that the theft was really an accident. I mistakenly mixed my own notes and a Nexis dump. Or, It was a cut-and-paste error. But when a journalist gets caught plagiarizing a second time, it's much harder for him to plead to a mere blunder.
Last month, the New York Times conceded plagiarism when I informed it that a Feb. 23 Times dispatch had lifted--almost verbatim--two lines from an 18-month-old Miami Herald story about the illicit drug paco. The Times reporter, Alexei Barrionuevo, told his bosses that he didn't remember pinching the lines from the Herald but acknowledged that he must have retrieved them while Googling for information.