Steve Fox


UMass student death challenges university’s right to restrict information

On Nov. 16, Sydne Jacoby, a sophomore at the University of Massachusetts was walking with a group of friends near campus when she tripped and fell just before midnight. It’s a pretty well-traveled street for party revelers on a Friday night and Amherst officials would later confirm that alcohol was involved in the accident.

Three days later, Jacoby died from injuries suffered in the fall.

Yet, it wasn’t until 10 days later, in a story in The Daily Hampshire Gazette, that the university community and larger Amherst community were informed of the death.

In that initial report, UMass spokesman Edward Blaguszewski said Jacoby was not identified by university officials based on the wishes of her family and privacy considerations. And in this case the university also chose not to send around an e-mail announcing the student death — standard operating procedure since I began teaching here five years ago.

My first thought: What else don’t we know? Read more

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Washington Post plagiarism case challenges educators who tell students not to break the rules

“We’ll deal with it on a case-by-case basis.”

For many of us that approach was the guiding force on how to handle breaking news in the early years of Web journalism at The Washington Post. It was one way of saying, “We’re not going to set rules since we we’re all kind of learning along the way.”

That was a reasonable approach. There are times when rules don’t apply. Journalists know this better than anyone else.

Yet, there has always been one area where the rule has been journalistic law: Plagiarism. At least I thought so.

The most recent plagiarism case involving The Washington Post’s Sari Horwitz stealing sections of two stories from The Arizona Republic seems to indicate that the rules may no longer be absolute. That shift may also points to cracks between what educators teach students in journalism school and what is happening in the industry.

For years, journalism educators have preached about the “cardinal sin” of plagiarism. Read more

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