Journalism does not merely grant its practitioners a vantage point from which to chronicle all things significant, it also obliges them to be guardians of the truth and keepers of the public conscience. We are hardly infallible, and trying to be worthy of our ideals is a constant endeavour. Journalism never was, and never should be, just another profession: the foundations of democracy would be significantly weaker without journalistic scrutiny.
Occasionally we are required to turn our gaze inwards and judge ourselves by the standards we apply to the rest of the world. A couple of weeks ago our attention was drawn to an exceedingly rare occurrence on our site: a portion of a piece by one of our most valued columnists bore striking similarities to parts of a piece published in the Economist a few days prior.
Ed Smith, the writer of that piece on ESPNcricinfo, has written for the site for over four years. He has combined intellect, erudition, research, and curiosity about human behaviour with first-hand knowledge of sport to bring to our readers a series of pieces that have provided a perspective on sport and sportspersons not usually offered by sportswriters.
However, this particular piece of work did not meet our editorial standards for sourcing, and since the stark resemblance between some paragraphs was impossible to ignore, we decided to insert an attribution immediately, and have subsequently decided to take the piece down altogether.
In public life, perceptions matter as much as reality. Credibility is not a nice-to-have attribute for us, it is the basis of our existence. And the bigger the reputation, the greater the need for accountability. We believe we have dealt with the matter with the seriousness it deserves.
Sambit Bal is editor-in-chief of ESPNcricinfo. @sambitbal