Journalism orgs launch free ebook for preventing, detecting and handling plagiarism and fabrication

By the end of last summer, I was worn out.

It seemed like every week brought a new, awful incident of plagiarism or fabrication at news organizations large and small. My job was to write about all of them, to try and get more information about what happened and why, and to make sense of what was taking place.

A lot of the time I was rebuffed by senior newsroom staffers when asking for more information or basic disclosure.

Why I was expending so much effort when it seemed no one wanted to talk about what was going on? I was frustrated, and I channeled that into a post called “Journalism’s Summer of Sin marked by plagiarism, fabrication, obfuscation”, which listed every recent known incident and called out newsroom leaders for being unwilling to engage and show accountability. Read more


Alabama student journalist quoted ‘nearly 30′ fabricated sources

The Crimson White | Al.com

Journalism freshman Madison Roberts “fabricated sources in several news stories dating back to Jan. 10 of this year” in University of Alabama student paper The Crimson White, the paper says. The reporter “quoted nearly 30 students, none of whom could be found in the UA student directory or on social media,” the paper’s report said.

“I was overwhelmed and succumbed to a lot of pressure I’d been under,” Roberts told the paper in an email. The paper’s copy editors discovered her fabrications while fact-checking names earlier this month; a subsequent review of Roberts’ work turned up more bogus sources. Roberts “has been removed from the paper’s staff,” the paper says. Read more


Jonah Lehrer earns $20,000 honorarium for talking about plagiarism at Knight lunch

At a talk this afternoon in Miami, Jonah Lehrer acknowledged his plagiarism and fabrications and described how he hopes to redeem his reputation. Lehrer read prepared remarks then answered questions from Knight Foundation President and CEO Alberto Ibargüen and the gathering at the closing lunch for the 2013 “Media Learning Seminar.” A liveblog of highlights appears beneath the video.

Lehrer was paid handsomely for the appearance. “Like most outside speakers at Knight events, he was paid an honorarium. In this case, it was $20,000,” says Knight spokesperson Marika Lynch by email. Ibargüen told The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple, “We would typically pay a speaker sometimes more than that.”

Lehrer resigned from The New Yorker in July after it was revealed he had been recycling his own work for blog posts and had fabricated quotes in at least one of his books. Read more


Plagiarism, fabrication and hoaxes marked this year in ‘Regret the Error’

We’ve published the year’s most notable errors and corrections and a month-by-month accounting of plagiarism and fabrication. Now it’s time to highlight the three accuracy-related trends from this year.

Inconsistent standards for handling plagiarism & fabrication

This year saw a rash of serious incidents of plagiarism and fabrication, particularly during the summer. That was a disturbing trend, but also notable were the reactions by the news organizations involved.

At organizations large and small there appears to be no standard practice for handling a major ethical transgression. Reaction varied from one outlet to the next, and overall there was a disturbing lack of transparency and accountability.

For example, a Hearst paper in Connecticut offered nothing more than a 152-word brief after it learned that a reporter fabricated at least 25 articles. Read more

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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. Read more


Four things the Cape Cod Times did right in handling revelation of serial fabrication

Just when I thought we were done with journalism scandals for 2012, another serial fabricator has been exposed.

Tuesday, the editor and publisher of the Cape Cod Times announced that longtime reporter Karen Jeffrey admitted to fabricating sources and quotes in her reporting.

“In an audit of her work, Times editors have been unable to find 69 people in 34 stories since 1998, when we began archiving stories electronically,” they write in an apology to readers.

Jeffrey is the third mass fabricator to be exposed this year. The first was New Canaan news reporter Paresh Jha, who fabricated sources and quotes in at least 25 stories, and the second is a former staff photographer for Sun-Times Media, who made up names and quotes for photo essays. Read more


Longtime Cape Cod Times writer Karen Jeffrey fabricated sources in at least 34 stories

Cape Cod Times
In a review of Cape Cod Times writer Karen Jeffrey’s work going back to 1998, “editors have been unable to find 69 people in 34 stories since 1998,” publisher Peter Meyer and Editor Paul Pronovost write in an extraordinary apology to readers.

Jeffrey “admitted to fabricating people in some of these articles and giving some others false names” and has left the paper, where she’s worked since 1981, they write.

While they found much of her sourcing solid, the stories with bad sourcing “were typically lighter fare,” they write:

a story on young voters, a story on getting ready for a hurricane, a story on the Red Sox home opener – where some or all of the people quoted cannot be located.

Read more

College Media Association president ‘unconvinced’ students are plagiarizing, fabricating more than in the past

Three student newspapers have faced plagiarism scandals in the past month, raising questions about how to prevent plagiarism and fabrication among college journalists.

David Swartzlander, president of the College Media Association, said via email that he has no reason to believe that plagiarism and fabrication incidents at college newspapers have increased in recent years.

“If they have, I’m unconvinced that it is because students have used these practices with increasing frequency,” said Swartzlander, who is also journalism department chairman and assistant professor at Doane College in Nebraska. “Until presented with figures that can show more students are using these practices, I believe we have a sense that it is happening more because of digital media, which can expose these practices more widely and with much more ease than in previous generations.” Read more


10 ways to prevent plagiarism, fabrication at college newspapers (and in any newsroom)

Multiple news organizations have recently found themselves in the middle of plagiarism and fabrication scandals — NPR, The Wall Street Journal, Wired, Time, CNN and The Boston Globe to name a few.

Last week, Penn State’s student newspaper The Daily Collegian suspended a writer for plagiarizing and fabricating quotes by Sue Paterno, the widow of former coach Joe Paterno. This was the paper’s second plagiarism case this year, and it marks the third time that a college newspaper has made headlines for plagiarism and fabrication in the past month. (In September, Arizona State University’s State Press and Columbia University’s Daily Spectator both revealed that students there had plagiarized.)

The incidents made me think about the particular challenges that student journalists face, and the steps that college newspapers can take to help them. Read more


Penn State student journalist suspended for fabrication, plagiarism

The Daily Collegian
Penn State’s student newspaper has suspended a writer who fabricated and plagiarized quotes by Sue Paterno in a story about the opening of a center on campus named for her. Paterno is the widow of former coach Joe Paterno, who died just months after being fired from the university for his role in Jerry Sandusky’s ongoing sexual abuse of young men.

Daily Collegian editor-in-chief Casey McDermott did not name the student in her note today, but the story she cites carries the byline of Nick Vassilakos. Poynter chose to include his name here to make it easier for others to review his work and to avoid implicating other Daily Collegian writers.

McDermott said that this was not the student’s first offense: Read more

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