Penn State student journalist suspended for fabrication, plagiarism

The Daily Collegian
Penn State’s student newspaper has suspended a writer who fabricated and plagiarized quotes by Sue Paterno in a story about the opening of a center on campus named for her. Paterno is the widow of former coach Joe Paterno, who died just months after being fired from the university for his role in Jerry Sandusky’s ongoing sexual abuse of young men.

Daily Collegian editor-in-chief Casey McDermott did not name the student in her note today, but the story she cites carries the byline of Nick Vassilakos. Poynter chose to include his name here to make it easier for others to review his work and to avoid implicating other Daily Collegian writers.

McDermott said that this was not the student’s first offense:

“On Sept. 18, a copy editor also discovered similarities between a sentence in an article written by the same student and a sentence in an outside article used as part of the student’s background research. When asked, the staff member said the similarities were an honest mistake stemming from a misunderstanding in proper attribution procedures.

“Still, as a precaution, that article was not published, and the staff writer was told that his previous work would be subject to a review for missing or incorrect attribution. The staff writer was asked to repeat a semester of reporter training, but he was permitted to remain on the staff under increased supervision.”

It is also not the paper’s first brush with plagiarism this year:

“In response to an incident of plagiarism discovered earlier in 2012, the Collegian instituted increased training for incoming staff members and editors. We will expand upon that training and evaluate what we can be doing better, as an institution, to make sure every staff member understands the fundamentals of journalism ethics.”

An editor’s note appears on the Paterno story and on the writer’s other stories.

Correction: This post originally stated that Joe Paterno resigned; he offered his retirement in November but was later fired by the university.

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  • Anonymous

    That is the worst part of getting some article or writing that was wrote by the other authors. A student must strive harder and must be willing to practice some techniques in order to produce their own good writings.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t see why plagiarism on a student newspaper is national news.

  • NamedNames

    Yes, let’s wreck the poor jerk’s life while we can.

  • Anonymous

    The catholic student center is off campus. Across the street from campus. Penn state would not allow it on campus because it is a public university.

    I can’t believe they didn’t fire this guy for plagiarizing. Two counts of plagairism is enough to be expelled from Penn State.

  • Anonymous

    The plagiarism-lack of originality complex just refuses to go away.
    Do we have category mistakes about what is happening and what to do about it?
    More training in media ethics is a bit like learning how to stuff a beach towel into a Coke bottle. A bit like SAT methods. People, you just can’t do it that way.
    Let Poynter take the lead. Here is my “core course” for all journalism students in America. Fiction, non-fiction, and language. Triangulation of texts.
    Fiction: “The Great Gatsby,” Penguin Modern Classics. “Blood Meridian,” Modern Library. “The Turn of the Screw,” ed. Peter Beidler.
    Non-Fiction: Harr’s “A Civil Action.” McPhee’s “Encounters with the Archdruid.” “In Cold Blood.”
    Language: COBUILD English Grammar. Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, app.
    You can assimilate this program in one term if you struggle fiercely. There should be a national standards blog for student discussion and for ideas on testing. The goal is to become language-sensitive so that cheating and dullness will lose their appeal.
    Put the Coke bottle and the beach towel away in the cupboard!

  • Anonymous

    The plagiarism-lack of originality complex just refuses to go away.
    Do we have category mistakes about what is happening and what to do about it?
    More training in media ethics is a bit like learning how to stuff a beach towel into a Coke bottle. A bit like SAT methods. People, you just can’t do it that way.
    Let Poynter take the lead. Here is my “core course” for all journalism students in America. Fiction, non-fiction, and language. Triangulation of texts.
    Fiction: “The Great Gatsby,” Penguin Modern Classics. “Blood Meridian,” Modern Library. “The Turn of the Screw,” ed. Peter Beidler.
    Non-Fiction: Harr’s “A Civil Action.” McPhee’s “Encounters with the Archdruid.” “In Cold Blood.”
    Language: COBUILD English Grammar. Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, app.
    You can assimilate this program in one term if you struggle fiercely. There should be a national standards blog for student discussion and for ideas on testing. The goal is to become language-sensitive so that cheating and dullness will lose their appeal.
    Put the Coke bottle and the beach towel away in the cupboard!