Contra Costa Times apologizes for editorial with ‘virtually identical’ passages as one in LA Times

Dan Hatfield, editorial page director of the Contra Costa Times, apologized on Saturday for an editorial that was “nearly identical” in approach (and in many words) to one published by the Los Angeles Times on March 27.

From Hatfield’s editor’s note:

After publication of that editorial, it was brought to our attention by an editor at the Los Angeles Times that our editorial had taken a nearly identical approach to one that his newspaper had published several days before ours. In addition, there were several paragraphs in this paper’s editorial that were virtually identical to those in the Los Angeles Times.

While each newspaper’s editorial opinion staff came to the same viewpoint on the issue separately, the editorial that was published in our newspapers was clearly inappropriate and profoundly unprofessional. The wording is simply too similar to be a coincidence, and we have taken appropriate personnel action.

Hatfield goes on to apologize to the Times and to his readers. He does not name the editorial writer responsible for the cribbed editorial (which as of Monday morning remains online in its original form), nor does he offer additional details about the “personnel action” taken by the paper. We also don’t know if the paper reviewed the offender’s previous work to see if this is a pattern or a one-time offense. (Hatfield responded to my inquiries about this; his responses are below.)

As noted by iMediaEthics in its post about the incident, Hatfield’s note at no time uses the word plagiarism to describe what happened. It’s undeniably plagiarism: the approach and several paragraphs were taken from the Times.

Update: Hatfield offered additional details about the incident in an email Monday night. First off, he said the offending writer has been fired. He also addressed my question as to whether the paper reviewed this person’s previous work to see if there were other examples of plagiarism.

“Yes, we did conduct a review of the writer’s previous work,” he wrote. “It was our first action and we found no evidence of other instances.”

I had also asked why Hatfield didn’t use the word plagiarism in the editor’s note about the incident. ”It is true I did not choose to use the word in the note to readers, but given that the writer is no longer here it should be obvious that we do feel that it was,” he wrote.

As Hatfield noted, the editor’s note has now been added to the original editorial.

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