Baltimore Sun columnist confesses to recycling passages from old columns

A recent column from longtime Baltimore Sun columnist Jacques Kelly includes a surprising admission in the third paragraph:

… it’s time for a confession. In many of my columns, I repeated sentences and entire passages from past columns that I considered my old standbys. My motivation was to give my readers what I thought they wanted. But it was disingenuous to include parts of previous columns word for word without telling the reader they had been published before, which is against Baltimore Sun policy.

Kelly’s column doesn’t explain why he confessed now, or if he faced any disciplinary action for his recycling. The column bears the innocuous headline, “Longtime columnist embarks on new writing path.” I personally think “Longtime columnist self-plagiarizes, gets to keep writing” is catchier, and more accurate.

I emailed Kelly early yesterday morning to ask him to elaborate on the column and explain how his violation of Sun policy came to light. He didn’t, but I did receive this response from Renee Mutchnik, the paper’s director of marketing:

Thank you for your inquiry to Mr. Kelly. It is our policy not to comment on personnel matters. The Saturday column informed readers about the changes and readers are pleased with the column’s return.

As is hinted at in her statement, Kelly’s column had not appeared in the paper since the fall. I don’t know whether this was a hiatus of Kelly’s choosing, or the result of disciplinary action.

It’s a shame Kelly won’t answer for himself. Even more disappointing is the fact that the paper feels a perfunctory admission that one of its writers violated Sun policy is sufficient disclosure for readers.

Thanks to William Robboy for sending along the link.

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  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_CXUHIHGNWASTCBWEON6CBJ33FU JOhn

    Richard Roeper is the master of column stuffing.  Whether it be spewing one out with nothing but slogans that he saw on people’s tee-shirts, or using an entire previously written column as filler, nobody can top Roeper when it comes to mediocre hacks.

  • David Blum

    I am a Baltimore Sun reader (although I have never paid any attention to that particular column) and I think the way the paper has handled this is completely sufficient, and no more “disclosure” is needed.

    To view such recycling as a form of plagiarism is to miss the point of why plagiarism is so bad. A columnist who reuses old text hasn’t stolen credit from other journalists or distorted the truth in any way. It is normal for columnists to reuse ideas and arguments, treading the same ground over and over again in multiple columns. Normally they reword and rephrase their points to keep the material fresh, but if this were really an ethical issue, that would not be enough. What Mr. Kelly has done is bad writing and laziness, but nothing more.