Monday, January 23, 2006

PLAIGERISM: When in doubt, attribute -- SPJ PressNotes roundups

Cross posted (copied!) from:
SPJ PressNotes for Thursday, January 19, 2006

Compiled by Gene Perry, Ward Neff Intern, Gaylord College of Journalism
and Mass Communication, The University of Oklahoma

Jemima Kiss,

ETHICS: Honolulu reporter fired for plagiarizing Wikipedia

A Hawaiian newspaper sacked a journalist last week after an
investigation found he had copied passages from Wikipedia. The
Honolulu Star-Bulletin dismissed entertainment reporter Tim Ryan for
plagiarizing content in six stories written since April 2001.
Wikipedia editors were first alerted to Ryan's work during analysis of
a feature he wrote on a Hawaiian airline disaster. Contributors
flagged up their discovery in one of Wikipedia's 'signpost' entries
and an investigation at the newspaper followed. In a message to
readers, editor Frank Bridgewater said the stories did not contain
inaccurate information but used phrases copied from the online
encyclopedia. Most of the stories have since had correction notes

Source: David Simon, The Baltimore City Paper

ETHICS: Michael Olesker is a plagiarist? Who isn't?

In the small newsroom of the college newspaper where I learned
rudiments of craft, there was affixed to one wall a parody of Edgar
Allan Poe, which began, "Once upon a deadline dreary..." The author,
an alumnus of the University of Maryland Diamondback, had butchered
The Raven, evoking the gothic plight of a journalist trapped at a
typewriter, trying to keep his work fresh as he exhausted new
developments in the top few paragraphs and was reduced to recounting
backstory. ... On the police beat, on general assignment, and
especially on the rewrite desk, you were usually reacting to new
developments on stories that were ongoing for days or months. You
would quickly marry the fresh stuff to what had already been reported,
more often than not by other staffers. ... On rewrite, too, we were
instructed to watch the evening news broadcasts and, later, to check
the Associated Press for next-day stuff from The Washington Post. If
we were getting beat -- and if there was time to make the home final
edition -- we tried to catch up, to reach sources at home so The Sun
would not have to quote competitors. If we couldn't confirm a
competitor's story, we gave credit. Given this history, there is
behind me a trail of newsprint that includes tens of thousands of
paragraphs cribbed from other Sun reporters or reconfirmed from other
publications. Am I certain that in every instance I changed enough
adjectives, flipped enough sentences, restructured enough paragraphs,
and generally rewrote the background enough to avoid a charge of
plagiarism? Do I have confidence that in re-reporting others I
confirmed every single salient fact? In the wake of charges leveled
against a former colleague, Sun columnist Michael Olesker, I am no
longer sure.


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