Seeking newsroom policies and tips for preventing plagiarism, fabrication

A committee formed to investigate better ways of preventing and handling incidents of plagiarism and fabrication is asking newsrooms to share examples of internal policies and prevention practices related to these issues.

The committee is made up of  journalists and journalism educators brought together in the fall by American Copy Editors Society President Teresa Schmedding. She was spurred into action after reading my look back at journalism’s “Summer of Sin,” a chronicle of major incidents of plagiarism and fabrication, and the lack of a consistent response from the newsrooms involved.

Schmedding reached out to leaders of other journalism organizations and there is now a committee of more than 10 people with representatives from SPJ, ASNE and APME, and others. The goal is to produce an ebook containing advice and guidance for newsrooms; it would be available at the ACES conference in the spring.

I’m part of the group. We’re looking for help on two fronts, and I hope Poynter readers can be of assistance:

  1. We’d like to collect examples of newsroom policies that talk about plagiarism and fabrication. What do you tell your people about what is and isn’t plagiarism? Do you have ethical guidelines that address these issues? We want as many of these policies as possible.
  2. We’d like to hear from newsrooms that have instituted measures to detect and prevent incidents of plagiarism and fabrication. Do you do random checks? Do you use plagiarism detection services to root out stolen content? Do you call sources quoted in a story? Any examples of internal practices or programs would be great.

Please send examples to me by email. No policy is too short, no practice too small. We want to gather as many examples as possible. Any and all help is appreciated.

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  • Ingrid Ferris

    Margaret Wente of the Globe and Mail recently got caught. Again..A couple of years ago, she wrote this, which can be read a couple of ways.
    “The wonderful thing about writing for the Globe and Mail is that the newspaper always backs me up. I’ve been picketed and taken to the Press Council, and my editors’ BlackBerries have gone off in the middle of the night with angry e-mails demanding that I be fired, but I never have been. My publisher and editors never tell me what to write or what not to write, and they back me up even if they happen to think I am dead wrong. I am very thankful for that, and Globe readers should be too. It is a remarkable privilege to do what I do, and I try to live up to it.”

  • Robert Knilands

    Well, ACES had its chance to address this a few years ago with the Albom fabrication. Although there were apparently “no-edit/no-change” policies in place, there were still consequences for the people who did not violate those policies.
    Seems that addressing the existence of those policies at that time might have been worthwhile. Policies that go against the idea of screening out fabrications are likely a significant barrier, you know.