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Star Tribune Film Critic Colin Covert Resigns After Plagiarizing Other Reviews

Movie critic Colin Covert has stepped down from Star Tribune after three decades of reviewing movies.

Melissa McCarthy as "Lee Israel" in the film CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME? Photo by Mary Cybulski. © 2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

“Can You Ever Forgive Me?”

Photo by Mary Cybulski

Colin Covert, the film critic for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, has resigned after the publication discovered a pattern of plagiarizing in his work. The Star Tribune announced December 10 Covert was stepping down from his role as film critic after being a staff writer at the company for over 30 years. Covert’s resignation was the result of his reviews “using the same unique language of writers for other publications, without attribution.”

“In his long career at the Star Tribune, Covert has made many contributions to our cultural coverage,” the Tribune said. “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.”

Plagiarism in Covert’s work appeared as recently as November 1 with the publication of his review for Marielle Heller’s “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” starring Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant. Covert wrote of McCarthy in the review, “There’s breathtaking craft and control in her performance, but not once do you sense the tools at work.” The line was directly ripped from Jon Frosch’s 2017 review of “Call Me By Your Name” for The Hollywood Reporter. Frosh wrote of Timothée Chalamet, “There’s breathtaking craft and control in the performance, but not once do you sense the tools at work.”

The Tribune cited other examples of plagiarism in Covert’s work, including a 2009 review of the musical “Nine” that stole lines from reviews written by the iconic New Yorker film critic Pauline Kael. Covert called the film “self-glorifying masochistic mush,” which is a line Kael wrote in 1974. Other Kael descriptions used by Covert included “archaic big-musical circus,” “comic-strip craziness,” and “stardust is slightly irritating.”

According to the Tribune’s investigation into Covert’s work, there was at least eight other reviews that had phrases written by other film critics. Covert plagiarized from publications including The New York Times, Paste Magazine, Vulture, the Wall Street Journal, and IndieWire.

The Tribune said Covert plagiarized from IndieWire’s “Halloween” and “The Oath” reviews. Covert wrote about David Gordon Green’s horror film, “It’s the season for tricks and treats and masks and blood and gore and bizarre, probably psychotic fixations, and few film franchises inspire twisted obsessions quite like the ‘Halloween’ collection.” In an article for IndieWire about giallo films, Russ Fischer wrote, “It’s the season for blood and gore and unhealthy, possibly psychotic fixations, and few subgenres inspire obsession quite like ‘giallo’ thrillers.” Covert also stole the phrase “this madly bleak whirl of violence and suspense” from the same IndieWire article.

“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,” Covert said in a statement released by the Tribune. “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.”

The Tribune added, “We also apologize to our readers, and to the writers and publications from which the material was taken.”

IndieWire has reached out to Covert and editors of the Tribune for further comment.

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