On Plagiarism

via collegemedia.files.wordpress.com

via collegemedia.files.wordpress.com

Poynter is full of great stories, but sometimes there are a couple that really stick out — in a bad way.

These things affect every journalist, no matter their experience or age. I’ve talked about fabrication and plagiarism many times on this blog and it seems to be every couple of weeks, or so, that something like this comes to light.

 did a great job both writing and updating the story as it developed. I highly recommend everyone read it and check out what The Crimson White has done to address the problem. 

I realize that the journalism student was a freshman, but quoting  “nearly 30 students, none of whom could be found in the UA student directory or on social media,” is pretty bad.

Disclaimer: I know I’m not perfect and I’m not trying to come off as an ass here, but this specific case is pretty extensive. Making up one person is one thing (still not acceptable), but making up 30 people is a whole new ballgame.

I asked some former colleagues of mine, Matthew Clyburn and Michael Walsh to weigh in on this. I wanted to see where we all stood on this type of story.

Mike was my editor for a semester at CCSU’s The Recorder and Matt was my news editor for a semester, as well. We’ve remained close since then. Mike is currently working for The Hartford Courant.

Matt: “The demand and stress of the journalism profession can be suffocating at times. Deadlines, demanding editors, and high expectations can be suffocating to people that are new to the business. However, the industry is truly “by and for” the people. There are no shortages of people to talk to for any given story, and reporters should never find themselves in the position to fabricate sources or information. At the end of the day, we are accountable to our readers. A firmly rooted sense of ethics should guide everything we do. These principles are non-negotiable, and all practitioners are made aware of these standards when they walk in the door. There is no excuse for this type of behavior.”

Mike and I didn’t agree on everything, which really surprised me.

Mike said the reporter in question should “probably take a few ethics classes before being allowed to return to the staff.”

I argued that the story puts a black eye on the profession, but Mike disagreed.

“There’s time to make her understand why it’s so VERY wrong and educate (her),” he said, adding he disagreed that the entire profession takes a hit. “This has been likely happening forever and there are bad apples in other professions, too.”

He said it would be “nonsense” for this particular case to effect the entire field.

“I just like to believe that people aren’t so simple minded (that) they’d see an incident and think it tarnishes an entire profession,” he said. “Because, when someone in another profession does something wrong, I don’t think the entire profession to be lesser.”

This story comes down to the overwhelming pressure and demand of the business. It also comes down to great copy editing, which usually gets overlooked. 

Before you get into the business you have to take a step back and realize what this job seriously entails. It’s not all fun and games. The camaraderie is great, but the stress is something that cannot be overlooked.

They don’t teach you that in school. I’m not sure how they would, either.

I can’t write about the stress enough. I mean, I’m used to it, but it’s something that seriously needs to be considered before you step into this “world.”

Any editor will tell you the same thing.

Jonathan

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