Reporter at Maine weekly fired for plagiarism

The Forecaster | Sentry
South Portland-Cape Elizabeth Sentry reporter Michael J. Tobin was fired after his paper learned he’d pasted material from The Forecaster and Current, two other weeklies that cover greater Portland, Maine.

Tobin, according to The Forecaster’s Andrew Cullen, lifted work from The Forecaster’s Mario Moretto and Current’s Duke Harrington.

Tobin used content from three of the five stories Moretto wrote for Feb. 17, as well as from a story about a new emergency communication system planned for South Portland that was published last November. In some cases, Tobin took information Moretto paraphrased and used it as quoted material from sources Tobin had not interviewed.

On Wednesday, Tobin admitted he copied content from his competitors, but said he had not realized that doing so was wrong.

“I didn’t copy whole stories. I cut and pasted things that were public knowledge, and not what one newspaper got,” although in some cases he copied the lead paragraphs of Moretto’s stories, which typically analyze and sum up issues, rather than paraphrase information.

A publisher’s note on the front page of this week’s Sentry (available as a PDF) says the paper “acted swiftly to address” Tobin’s deeds “when it was called to our attention.” The Sentry fired him “within hours” of being contacted by editors of The Forecaster and Current, Cullen writes. Jim Gailey, the city manager of South Portland, “who reads all three of the local weeklies,” alerted The Forecaster. || Related: Have newsrooms relaxed standards, sanctions for fabrication and plagiarism?

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  • Jeffrey Caron

    Perhaps you should contact Mr Tobin and get “the rest of the story”  He is and has always been a fine and upstanding person and writer.  Unfortunately the whole story is not here. I am close to Mr Tobin so it is not fair for me to really comment. I can, however, assure you he is NOT a postmodern plagiarist. He made a mistake while he was flat on his back and seriously ill covering two newspapers that were short reporters and editors, no excuse The whole story has been blown up The information was public knowledge of town council meetings. He took a quote from a town meeting, again no excuse.  But a good man made a mistake and does not deserve to be vilified. Seriously contact him if you truly believe in saving ethical journalism. Good and ethical people make mistakes.  It does not have to destroy their career.

  • Plagiarism Detector Academicpl

    “he had not realized that doing so was wrong”…what exactly do they teach at journalism schools? I’m assuming of course he did go to journalism school.

  • David DesRoches

    I wonder if he really thought this was an acceptable deed… who’s failure is that, really? Education system? His parents? The Sentry, for not training him? Or he just another one of those “postmodern plagiarists?”