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.

“When the worst happens at a news organization, wagons are circled, stonewalls erected,” I said. “It’s a corrosive form of hypocrisy when — in a moment of crisis — journalists do the exact things that drive them crazy.”

I didn’t expect much to happen when I suggested journalism associations come together “to have their ethics committees (and/or boards) look at this issue, gather what material and policies they have, and determine what guidance they can offer to newsrooms. This needs to be an initiative that cuts across organizations, mediums and disciplines to serve all journalists.”

Then I got an email from American Copy Editors Society President Teresa Schmedding that basically said, “Okay, let’s do this.” 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. Wired also severed ties with him after an independent investigation found 22 instances of recycling, plagiarism or fabrication.

Archived video of the session appears below, and Lehrer plans to post his remarks on his website in the next few days, he said.

Watch live streaming video from knightfoundation at livestream.com 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.

The Boston Globe and Canada’s Globe And Mail both refused to say publicly how, if at all, columnists who plagiarized were disciplined. The Boston Globe even declined to publicly name the offender. (The Globe writer had plagiarized in an unsigned editorial. But does a journalist deserve to maintain anonymity when they commit a major ethical transgression?)

Some organizations reviewed the previous work of a fabricator or plagiarist. Some didn’t. Some promised to institute new practices to prevent these things from happening again. They rarely explained what those were.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that in response, the American Copy Editors Society brought together representatives from several journalism organizations to form a committee to recommend what newsrooms should do to prevent and handle incidents of plagiarism and fabrication. The recommendations will be published in an ebook to be released in April at the ACES conference. (I’m part of the committee.)

Next-Level Hoaxes

Journalists need to be more on their guard than ever before. This year saw the emergence of a form of online hoax that was more complex, more coordinated, more layered — and built to go viral.

The first example was the Shell Arctic hoax, which began with a video on YouTube that presented itself as a leaked video of an oil industry event gone wrong. (The display of a replica oil drill that would soon supposedly be used by Shell to drill in the Arctic went awry and sprayed fake oil over some of the guests.)

The video was picked up by some in the press. Then the next level of the hoax kicked in: journalists were contacted by someone claiming to be from Shell PR to say the video was not real, and asking them to read a website with the real details about the project.

That website was fake, generating a second round of coverage. Two fake Twitter accounts were also set up.

A second well-executed hoax aimed at the press was WikiLeak’s fake Bill Keller column. It featured a fake website meant to look like The New York Times, a fake Twitter account, and the use of real comments by Keller to add authenticity to the hoax column.

A third example of a hoax that’s built to spread: See the story about how Abraham Lincoln invented the Facebook of his day. Sounds implausible, but that didn’t stop people from believing and sharing it.

Aside from well-executed offerings like the above, there were plenty of other hoaxes that spread. One example was the constant stream of fake Twitter accounts created by Italian teacher Tommaso De Benedetti and others. Or the onslaught of fake images that were created and shared before, during and after Hurricane Sandy.

The fakes and hoaxes will not be going away, and they will likely become more realistic and elaborate. It’s more important than ever that journalists understand how to debunk them, and help spread these skills among their colleagues and the public in order to stop bad information from spreading, especially during emergencies.

Fact-checking as part of political coverage

2012 was the year political fact-checking established itself as a standard part of election coverage.

The sheer volume of fact-checking, and the variety of media doing it at the national and local levels, helped it go mainstream.

A fact-checking segment/blog/report is now one of the standard tools used by news organizations during election season. Of particular note in the 2012 election was how checking was taken up by local outlets. For example, almost every major media outlet in Denver did some form of fact-checking as part of coverage.

In that swing state, and others, fact-checking is viewed as a way to counter political speech, or at least a way to place it in context for voters.

In 2012, fact-checking itself became more of a target. This is yet another sign it’s arrived in the political arena – people are using talking points to discredit it and the organizations who practice it.

PolitiFact previously dealt with backlash for its Lie of the Year picks, and MSNBC host Rachel Maddow was a constant critic of them this year. The GOP also targeted the organization with accusations of bias.

Nothing exemplified this more than the comment from Romney campaign pollster Neil Newhouse in response to outrage about a mendacious ad the campaign was running: “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.”

You know you’ve arrived in the realm of political coverage when people care enough to dismiss and discredit you.

Now that political fact-checking is spreading and seemingly here to stay, perhaps we’ll begin to get a better sense of the impact it has on voters and the political process. 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.

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. 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.

There were also fabrications by Jonah Lehrer and Mike Daisey. I will soon publish my annual round up of the year in plagiarism and fabrication, and this year’s tally is notable for the cases of fabrication.

Jeffrey’s offenses stand out for their frequency, and for the length of time she got away with it. Fabrication is always scandalous, but it’s all the more outrageous when someone can get away with it for so long. I imagine Jeffrey’s former colleagues are struck by that as well.

Another notable aspect of this case is the paper’s reaction. I think thus far they’ve done several things right in terms of handling the incidents and communicating with readers.

That’s in stark contrast to how the New Canaan News handled the Jha scandal. As I detailed while covering it, the News offered very little information to readers about his offenses, how they were discovered and investigated, and what the paper planned to do about them.

The sole communication to readers was a 152-word brief published late on a Friday afternoon. And even when I told editor Ashley Varese that I’d uncovered other Jha fabrications, she seemed uninterested in receiving the information.

Though there is still more to come, the Cape Cod Times’ initial communication to readers offered the kind of information and accountability we should expect when the worst happens. I think they did four things right in the apology to readers, which I detail below. I also have one suggestion for something they could have done differently.

1. Accept responsibility. Readers and the public first learning of the incident need to feel it’s being treated seriously, and that the organization accepts responsibility for letting it occur. That means labeling the article an apology, not a note to readers or a letter from the editor, etc. Readers expect an apology, and it’s important to be clear and sincere in offering it.

The Times’ apology also includes several places where the publisher and editor, whose names should be and are on the apology, express sincere regret and accept responsibility for what happened.

“There is an implied contract between a newspaper and its readers,” the apology reads. “The paper prints the truth. Readers believe that it’s true.” Then go on to say that “it is with heavy heart that we tell you the Cape Cod Times has broken that trust.”

They also address one major question head on:

How did this happen? Or more important, how did we allow this to happen? It’s a question we cannot satisfactorily answer. Clearly we placed too much trust in a reporter and did not verify sourcing with necessary frequency.

I also think the last paragraph of the apology does a good job of expressing why they need to meet a high standard of disclosure for this incident:

We needed to share these details, as uncomfortable as they are, because we are more than a private company dealing with a personnel issue – we are a newspaper and we have broken our trust with you. We deeply regret this happened and extend our personal apology to you.

2. Share details of the offenses, and the investigation into them. The apology is long, mostly because it spends several paragraphs detailing Jeffrey’s offenses and offering specific examples. This is important detail. It helps the reader understand exactly what the reporter did. It adds a layer of specificity that makes it clear the paper investigated the writer and is wiling to share what it found.

Simply saying you looked into previous work isn’t enough. Share what you find. Show that you did the work. Right now, the paper’s word alone isn’t good enough. Readers need facts and evidence. They deserve them, too.

Another good choice by the paper was to check the work of other staffers. This helps determine whether Jeffrey was a lone wolf, or if the paper has an even bigger problem.

3. Explain what’s happened so far, and what is yet to happen. Even though the paper appears to have done a thorough examination of Jeffrey’s work, more fabrications and problems may come to light. It’s too early to treat this as a closed case. The apology says that the paper is “in the process of removing Jeffrey’s questionable stories or passages of stories from capecodonline.com and will replace the suspect content with a note that explains why it was removed. That process is beginning today.”

It also notes that, “This column is our first step toward addressing what we uncovered.”

This signals the paper is committed to sharing new details as they emerge. That’s an important commitment, and one that the Times needs to follow through on.

4. Detail action being taken to prevent this from happening again. A natural question on the minds of readers is what the paper will do to restore trust and prevent this from happening again.

“We must learn from this painful lesson and take steps to prevent this from happening again,” reads the Times apology. “Moving forward, we will be spot-checking reporting sources more frequently; choosing stories at random and calling sources to verify they exist.”

And: “Be assured we will use this incident as part of an ethics training session for newsroom staff.”

Again, being specific about what will change is important to help restore trust. Even more important, of course, is actually implementing these measures.

One issue

If I have a quibble with the Times’ apology, it’s with its timing. The paper notes that it began investigating Jeffrey’s work on November 12. That’s several weeks ago. During this time, readers and the public knew nothing of the potential problems with her work.

I understand the need to take time to fully investigate her previous work, and the desire to wait until that process is complete before sharing it. However, we don’t know if Jeffrey was suspended during this time. We also don’t know why it took until Tuesday for her to confess to fabrication. (Though it appears from a tweet that may be from her that Jeffrey knew the jig was up as early as November 30.)

The paper could have communicated with readers when it first discovered the problem in mid-November, and explained that it was investigating her work. That public notification also could have sped up the process of spotting fabrication, since it inevitably brings extra scrutiny to Jeffrey’s work. Then the Times could have followed up with a full accounting of the offenses.

Again, there is a lot the Times did well in its investigation of Jeffrey, its communication to readers, and in its plans for preventing this from happening again.

The next step is to keep sharing information with readers, to be available to answer additional questions, and to follow through on the promise to institute new checks. 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.

Editors at the Times, which is owned by News Corp.’s Dow Jones Local Media Group, began investigating Jeffrey after they couldn’t find the subject of a Nov. 12 story. “When asked if she could help locate the family,” Meyer and Pronovost write, “Jeffrey said she could not because she threw away her notes.” 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. I talked with editors-in-chief and media advisers from eight colleges and universities to find out what strategies they’ve developed to help prevent plagiarism and fabrication and where they fall short.

Define plagiarism/fabrication

It’s easy to assume that students should know what constitutes plagiarism and fabrication, but that’s not always the case. Many of the students writing for college newspapers — particularly underclassmen and students at colleges without J-schools — have never had previous journalism experience.

“A lot of student journalists don’t understand what qualifies as plagiarism simply because they haven’t written enough articles or read enough to grasp what it is,” Yasmeen Abutaleb, editor-in-chief of the University of Maryland’s student newspaper, The Diamondback, said via email. “I also think student journalists don’t understand that they should be striving to confirm and get facts themselves, rather than taking them from another news source — which could easily lead to plagiarism. And a lot of it stems from not understanding how to properly attribute.” Some students, Abutaleb noted, use information from other stories rather than doing their own reporting.

Talking with students about plagiarism and fabrication before an incident occurs is key. It’s also smart for advisers and editors-in-chief to talk with student journalists about “patchwriting.”

This practice, which tends to be more common than plagiarism, involves relying heavily on source material and changing it only slightly by rearranging phrases and changing tenses. A recent study shows the practice is especially prevalent among college students.

“The college newsroom is fraught with peril. Many students arrive without a clue of what it takes to create original work,” said Poynter Faculty Member Kelly McBride, who recently wrote about patchwriting. “It’s actually crazy how little support we give student journalists compared to what we expect.”

Set clear expectations

To help prevent plagiarism and fabrication, college newspapers need to be upfront with students about the consequences they’ll face.

“At our new staff orientation, one of the very first things we tell people is that fabrication and plagiarism won’t be tolerated and you won’t be able to continue to work here if you do it,” Erica Beshears Perel, newsroom adviser to the University of North Carolina’s Daily Tar Heel, said by phone.

David Swartzlander, journalism department chairman and assistant professor at Doane College in Nebraska, tells students that he’ll fail them and pursue the possibility of getting them suspended from the college if they plagiarize or fabricate. Many of his students write stories for both his class and the student newspaper The Doane Owl.

Swartzlander, who is also the adviser of The Doane Owl and president of the College Media Association, enacted these strict consequences after one of his students fabricated a quote and attributed it to a local judge.

“The story hit page one of our paper and the judge was furious, to put it mildly. He had a right to be,” Swartzlander said via email. “My error, though was to allow that student to stay in the class and to keep submitting work. After that story, he was ostracized by the editors. … The student felt horrible, and I realized then that it would have been better for all involved had I removed him from that class, if not the school. You live and learn.”

Offer training to writers and editors

After The Daily Collegian had its first brush with plagiarism earlier this year, it began offering a training session about plagiarism. The session is part of the paper’s “Candidate Program” — a training program that all new staffers are required to participate in before they’re assigned to a beat.

The paper’s adviser, Jim Rodenbush, leads the session and teaches students how to properly cite sources, handle press releases, work from the transcript of a press conference they didn’t attend, and more.

“Right now, the training is only administered to incoming staff members and people who are in leadership positions who would disseminate the information they learn to their staff,” Editor-in-Chief Casey McDermott said by phone. “One of the things we’re looking at doing is establishing this session for all staffers who fall in between.”

Though helpful, training doesn’t always prevent plagiarism. The student who plagiarized and fabricated the Paterno quotes, McDermott said, had taken the training course.

Some school newspapers, such as The Ball State Daily News and The Tufts Daily, don’t offer any formal training on plagiarism prevention. “At the beginning of the year, we talk about how you need more than one source on a story and that if someone says something you don’t change it and you attribute the quote. That’s about all we talk about with staffers,” said Benjamin Dashley, editor-in-chief of The Ball State Daily News. “The minimal training is also rooted in the fact that we have such a high rate of turnover because we can only pay a small amount of our members.”

Poynter’s McBride stressed the importance of training staffers — not just once a year but throughout the year.

“If I were a college newspaper editor or an adviser, I’d start out every year with a day of workshops that addressed the creative process, the writing process and ethical standards,” she said. “Then I’d have monthly staff meetings to review successes and failures.”

Seek teachable moments, let students know help is available

Even students who have gone through training may still need help with sourcing and attribution.

“Often, I will see freshmen quote the president of the United States in a [local story],” Swartzlander said. “I’ll turn to the writer to ask: ‘When did you interview the president?’ They’ll often give me a blank look and say they saw the interview on TV and quoted from it. And that’s where the teachable moment happens. But that’s not malicious.”

McDermott said The Daily Collegian editors encourage students to come to them for help. Her hope is that students will be less inclined to plagiarize or fabricate if they know they can turn to their editors when they have attribution questions or are worried about meeting their deadlines.

“If students are running into a roadblock, we want to make it clear to them that their editor is there to help them,” McDermott said. “In my experience, we have a really, really supportive network of people. That being said, it can still be intimidating as a younger staff member starting out. I was afraid to ask how to use the phone when I first started, so I can definitely understand why people by nature would be afraid to ask for help.”

Create sourcing notes, accuracy surveys

The Daily Tar Heel and The Daily Collegian both ask students to include sourcing notes with their stories. The notes include links to relevant articles that students cite, as well as links to bio pages that include sources’ names and titles. The notes, Perel said, make students think more carefully about where they’re getting information, and they make it easier for editors to verify facts.

The Doane Owl sends all sources an accuracy survey after stories have been published. The survey asks, “Was the story fair and accurate?” “Were your name and title correct?” and “Were you quoted/attributed accurately?”

“We send the sources PDFs of the paper so that they can re-read the story to refresh their memories, if need be, but we normally send out the surveys within a day or two of publication,” Swartzlander said. “They don’t catch all of the errors, but they collect their fair share. And, surprisingly, most of the sources respond that they believe the story was fairly and accurately written.”

Have multiple editors look at each story

Many of the college newspapers I spoke with have rigorous editing processes, I learned. At The Daily Collegian, at least five editors typically look over each story — two beat editors, the managing editor, a copy editor and a copy desk chief.

Stories that come in later in the evening, however, usually receive just two rounds of editing — from a copy editor and a copy desk chief. Even when five editors look at stories, though, mistakes and plagiarism can still slip through. The Paterno story with plagiarized quotes last week had gone through five rounds of edits, McDermott said.

The University of Maryland’s Diamondback also requires that each story go through multiple editors. A section editor first looks at the story, then it goes through three more sets of edits. Similarly, at The Daily Tar Heel, all stories are seen by at least four pairs of eyes. “Ideally it’s to prevent errors from getting into the paper,” Perel said, “but I think it would also make it much harder for plagiarized material to get by the editors.”

Involve students in the editing process

As part of its extensive editing process, The Daily Tar Heel requires student writers to sit through the first three rounds of edits.

“We find it to be very educational and a good experience for writers to go through those edits and learn from them,” Perel said. “And we don’t ever want to be in a situation where a writer wakes up the next morning and doesn’t recognize their story because the editors have changed it so much.”

During the editing process, Daily Tar Heel editors ask writers an important question: “How do you know this?” Other questions to ask: “How did the interview go?” and “What was the person you interviewed like?”

If student writers know they’re going to be asked about their interviews, they may be less likely to fabricate quotes or scenes.

Revise the newspaper’s ethics guidelines

Many of the editors I spoke with said their papers have ethics codes that include a line or two about plagiarism. The Daily Collegian’s code of ethics, for example, has a line that says: “Do not use anyone else’s work, idea or phrase without proper attribution.” Below that is a line about truthfulness: “Be accurate and truthful with your sources and your news content at all times.”

That’s pretty standard language for an ethics code, but it doesn’t address the complexities of plagiarism and fabrication, and doesn’t explain the consequences.

The Daily Cardinal, one of two student newspapers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is currently updating its code of ethics to make it more useful. “It is such a complex issue, and I think writers need to be aware of how easy it can be to accidentally plagiarize without even thinking about it,” Editor-in-Chief Scott Girard said via email.

One key to effective ethics guidelines is to keep them updated. They should be living, breathing documents that are available online, not antiquated codes that always stay the same.

Use plagiarism software

Susannah Nesmith, faculty adviser of Barry University’s student newspaper The Barry Buccaneer, runs all stories through plagiarism detection software called Copyscape. While most professional news organizations have stayed away from using such software, Nesmith said she thinks it’s a valuable tool.

Since the Bucaneer’s student editors started using Copyscape in 2009, they’ve only caught one plagiarized passage, which had been lifted from Wikipedia.

“I think just the fact that the editors use it, and tell every writer about it, reinforces the point that plagiarism will not be tolerated. They’re so serious about it; they check every story before the paper goes to the printer,” Nesmith said via email. “I haven’t seen a downside. It’s a tool, like spell-check.”

Determine how the paper’s adviser can help

The College Media Association holds two conventions and one summer workshop each year to train advisers on issues such as plagiarism and fabrication.

It’s important, Swartzlander noted, for advisers to be knowledgeable on these topics so they can help student journalists deal with ethical issues as they arise — and find ways to prevent them from occurring in the first place.

“Advisers can play a significant role,” he said, “by strongly suggesting to students involved with the media that stories contain a certain number of sources, by sending accuracy surveys on a regular basis, by providing training on these issues at the beginning — and during — the school year and by constantly reminding reporters and editors that their job as journalists is to verify information.”

Sidebar: Meet IvyGate, the scourge of Ivy League plagiarists 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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