ASU journalism student plagiarizes at The State Press, East Valley Tribune

Two Arizona newspapers have apologized after learning they published plagiarized articles.

The papers both say the writer was a student at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University. But only one paper identified the student who plagiarized, leaving it open to discussion whether this was the same person.

The plagiarist identified by The State Press, an official campus paper at ASU, is Raquel Velasco. LinkedIn lists a profile of a Raquel Velasco who attends ASU and also worked for the East Valley Tribune, the paper that declined to identify its plagiarist. That suggests, but does not confirm, that Velasco could be the plagiarist at both papers.

Velasco’s LinkedIn profile also lists a stint at The Arizona Republic from July 2011 to December of that year. A Nexis search turned up over 20 bylines from Velasco during that period, ranging from crime briefs to shorter local news stories.

Arizona Republic Executive Editor Nicole Carroll told me by email, “We are aware of the issues raised and are looking into the work produced here. We take these issues very seriously.”

Different reactions

One notable aspect of this situation is that in comparing the reaction of the two papers, the student newspaper has thus far done a better of handling the incident than the professional news organization.

Last Saturday, The State Press announced it had published plagiarized works by an Cronkite student. The apology from the paper’s editorial board named the student — “our Tempe beat writer Raquel Velasco” — while detailing which pieces were plagiarized, and the original sources. It also shared when they learned of the accusation of plagiarism and how they reacted.

On Wednesday, the East Valley Tribune of Arizona posted a report that an intern from the Cronkite School had plagiarized in “several articles” published by the paper. It did not name the intern, list the articles that were plagiarized, or cite the sources the intern stole from.

The paper said it had contacted the intern’s school and was also “in the process of contacting the publications that were plagiarized and is also taking steps to increase scrutiny of articles before they are published.”

These contrasting reactions highlight the lack of standardization when it comes to how news organizations respond to an incident of plagiarism or fabrication. (Poynter’s Kelly McBride and I recently offered a step-by-step guide for how to handle such an incident.)

Unfortunately, one thing both publications share is an initial unwillingness to answer additional questions about the incidents. The website iMediaEthics contacted both papers, as well as ASU, for additional information and has yet to hear back from the Tribune or ASU.

The State Press’ editor-in-chief Yvonne Gonzalez responded to iMediaEthics’ inquiry and directed us to the editorial board statement,” reads its report today.

I emailed ASU to ask if Velasco plagiarized at both papers and if she is still a student there.

Related: Wall Street Journal intern fired for fabricating sources | 4 warning signs that a promising young writer (or veteran) may be developing dangerous habits

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  • http://twitter.com/shreya21 Shreya Maheshwari

    If you google journalist + copywriter, a lot of names will come up (for eg: Charles Newbery who’s written for the New York Times is also a copywriter). Don’t mean to disparage anyone, but am actually curious whether newspapers and mags have policies about multiple careers.

  • http://alum.mit.edu/www/lamont ilamont

    Can you cite some examples?

  • http://alum.mit.edu/www/lamont ilamont

    Can you cite some examples?

  • http://twitter.com/shreya21 Shreya Maheshwari

    There’s a lot of talk about ethics these days, and most of it focuses on plagiarism. But what about journalists who also do copywriting work on the side, and write for businesses. Why/how is that allowed?