We recently discovered that over the past decade, Star Tribune movie critic Colin Covert has written some film reviews using the same unique language of writers for other publications, without attribution.
Covert, a staff writer at the Star Tribune for more than 30 years, has resigned.
This matter came to editors’ attention in a recent email from a reader that said Covert in his 2009 review of the movie “Nine” had used a unique phrase from the late New Yorker film critic Pauline Kael. Editors confirmed the phrase -- “self-glorifying masochistic mush” -- was used by Kael in 1974.
After additional research, editors identified other phrases in Covert’s “Nine” review that are identical to phrases in other reviews written by Kael, including “archaic big-musical circus,” “comic-strip craziness” and “stardust is slightly irritating.” Further examination of some of Covert’s work identified eight other reviews that contained unique phrases used previously by writers for the New York Times, Paste Magazine, vulture.com, the Wall Street Journal, IndieWire and Hollywood Reporter.
The reviews by Covert in question span many years, but one was published as recently as November 1. In that review, of the film “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”, Covert wrote: “There’s breathtaking craft and control in her performance, but not once do you sense the tools at work.” A year earlier, in a Nov. 27, 2017, review of “Call Me by Your Name,” Jon Frosch wrote in the Hollywood Reporter: “There’s breathtaking craft and control in the performance, but not once do you sense the tools at work.”
The Star Tribune is alerting wire services and syndicates that use Covert’s reviews and asking that they provide this information to editors of news organizations that may have re-published them. We also are removing all of Covert’s work from StarTribune.com.
In his long career at the Star Tribune, Covert has made many contributions to our cultural coverage. But this pattern of using distinct phrasing from other authors without attribution is a form of plagiarism and is a violation of our journalistic standards and ethics and those of our industry.
Covert offered this statement to his readers: “I’m sorry to say that through too many mistakes over the last 30 years I have compromised the Star Tribune’s meticulous reputation for integrity. The paper has given me the opportunity to craft a wonderful, important career and through its benefits safeguarded me through three serious health crises. It is no exaggeration to say that I am grateful from the bottom of my heart. When blunders occur it is proper to admit them, correct them and move on.”
We also apologize to our readers, and to the writers and publications from which the material was taken.