Plagiarism

Uber’s plan to alienate the news media seems to be going well

Good morning. Here are 10 media stories.

  1. Uber’s plan to completely alienate the news media is going well

    The company says it is investigating why Uber New York GM Josh Mohrer tracked BuzzFeed reporter Johana Bhuiyan. It uses something called "God View" to track people. (BuzzFeed) | Ellen Cushing: "While I was reporting my recent cover story on Uber and its CEO Travis Kalanick, several current and former Uber employees warned me that company higher-ups might access my rider logs." (San Francisco Magazine) | Uber once used its data to show where and when people took "Rides of Glory." (Uber blog) | Kalanick apologized for an executive's remarks that it would like to dig up dirt on reporters via "tweetstorm," a "series of thoughts that give the illusion of substance and circumspection because they are presented in a numerical order." (Valleywag) | "I'll let you in on a secret. As a tech executive I DESPISE journalists, as do nearly all of my peers." (@MikeIsaac) | "Who'd think a company with a German name could be evil?" (@daveweigel)

  2. "Serial" sets record

    "According to Apple, it is the fastest podcast to reach 5m downloads and streams in iTunes’ history." (The Guardian) | Bill Keller: "Everybody in this office is utterly addicted to Serial. ... It's just a really well done mystery story." (Vox)

  3. Jimmy Soni gets New York Observer gig

    Former HuffPost M.E. who was reportedly investigated for sexual harassment, "has been retained as a social media consultant for The New York Observer." (Capital)

  4. NYT publishes "print native ad"

    An eight-page Shell ad, produced by the Times' native ads shop, hugs today's business section. "Still, most Times readers are likely to see the Shell print ad as just a print ad, albeit a very big one. But extending the Shell campaign to print is a way to add legitimacy to the native format, said Sebastian Tomich, vp of advertising at the Times." (Digiday)

  5. Blog post comes back to haunt Poynter

    "The highly respected Poynter Institute, a center for journalism, recently listed newspaper reporter as the 'worst job' in 2013." (HuffPost) | Not...quite. Poynter quoted the company CareerCast as it has done with subsequent, Web-traffic-friendly reports. Like when lumberjack edged out newspaper reporter as "worst job." Or when newspaper reporter made CareerCast's "endangered jobs" list...

  6. Fearbola strikes awards ceremony

    Alex Thomson will not host tonight's Rory Peck awards, which honor freelance journalists, "due to health and safety concerns following his recent return from covering the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone." (The Guardian)

  7. Journalism's real problem with plagiarism

    Punishment for plagiarists "has been consistently inconsistent," David Uberti writes. (CJR) | Related: Sometimes, student newspapers name plagiarists. Other times, they try not to torpedo their possible future careers. (Doesn't that just send plagiarists out into the work force relatively unchastened?) (Poynter)

  8. "Vape" is not in the OED

    Yes, "Vape" is Oxford Dictionaries' "Word of the Year." Yes, Oxford University Press publishes Oxford Dictionaries, and it also publishes the Oxford English Dictionary. No, Oxford Dictionaries Online and the OED are not the same thing. Looking at you, New York Post! The Independent! The Times of India!

  9. Front page of the day, curated by Kristen Hare

    Grief in Jerusalem, on the front of The International New York Times. (Via Kiosko)
    INYT-11192014 

  10. Job moves, edited by Benjamin Mullin

    David Beard will be executive editor of PRI. He is digital content director for The Washington Post. (PRI) | Nina Lawrence is now publisher of InStyle. Previously, she was vice president of global marketing and advertising sales for The Wall Street Journal. (Time Inc.) | Bill Duryea will be an enterprise editor at Politico. He is enterprise editor at the Tampa Bay Times. Michael Kruse will be a senior staff writer at Politico. He's a staff writer at the Tampa Bay Times. (Poynter) | Rodrigo Arana is now a sports anchor for Noticiero Telemundo Chicago. Previously, he was a reporter for Fox Sports Latin America. (MediaMoves) | Job of the Day: The Santa Clarita Valley Signal is looking for a sports journalist. Get your résumés in! (Journalism Jobs) | Send Ben your job moves: bmullin@poynter.org.

Corrections? Tips? Please email me: abeaujon@poynter.org. Would you like to get this roundup emailed to you every morning? Sign up here. Read more

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Should student newspapers name fabulists and plagiarists?

Last October, Megan Card searched through more than two years’ worth of stories in University of South Dakota student paper The Volante. She was following up on a tip, looking for proof that a student on the paper was making things up.

Card, then the paper’s editor-in-chief, found that reporter Joey Sevin had cited several sources — 10 in all — that couldn’t be verified using university records.

“You read about people like Jayson Blair and you think, it could never happen,” Card said in a recent interview. “And then you go through a similar situation and you realize the kind of mentality people have to have to just go completely against everything you learned in journalism school.”

She fired Sevin. But then, she took another step: she identified him in an editor’s column.

Card’s decision to name Sevin puts her in one of two camps among student editors — those who say identifying fabricators and plagiarists is necessary to preserve a publication’s integrity, and those who warn that public identification can snuff out careers before student journalists ever see the inside of a professional newsroom.

Card said she felt obligated to publish the offender’s identity. After all, the paper would go public with a fibbing campus administrator — why should their reporters be treated any differently?

“If a source had done something like lied to us, we would have used their name,” she said. “And I don’t know why we should be any less accountable for our actions.”

Last October, the newsroom of The Daily O’Collegian at Oklahoma State University was divided over a similar issue: whether to identify a student who cited several sources the newspaper was unable to confirm, said Sally Asher, who was then the paper’s editor-in-chief. She says she agonized over the decision, but ultimately penned a column detailing the misdeeds without naming the student responsible.

Asher says she would identify the student if she had to make the decision again today. But when she wrote the column, she was worried about destroying the student’s career.

“At that point, I was kind of scared of the responsibility of totally ruining her life,” Asher said.

Levi Meyer wrestled with that same problem last October, when he was editor-in-chief of The Criterion, the student newspaper at Colorado Mesa University. After he learned the paper’s online editor had plagiarized from a variety of sources, including The Associated Press, Jezebel and The New York Post, he was “furious,” he said. He fired the offender but decided not to identify her in a column to readers.

“We obviously would have named her and at that point she would have never been able to get a job in the journalism industry,” Meyer said. “Her career would be killed with a single Google search.”

The “eternal memory of the Web” puts a big burden on student editors when they are weighing whether to publicly identify offenders, said David Folkenflik, a media correspondent for NPR. News stories and corrections that set the record straight could come back to haunt plagiarizers and fabricators when they apply for jobs.

Folkenflik has firsthand experience dealing with misconduct in student media. He handled a case of plagiarism in 1990, shortly after he was named editor-in-chief of his student newspaper, the Cornell Daily Sun. Folkenflik was moving into the editor’s office when he found a manila envelope addressed to him from his predecessor in the top drawer of his new desk. Inside, he found a column written by one of the paper’s op-ed columnists and a column the student had cribbed from. Upon further investigation, he realized that the entirety of the column was cobbled together using material from the other story.

“To me, it was like being hit on the head with a ball-peen hammer,” he said.

Folkenflik asked the plagiarist to write an apology for the paper and dismissed her. He said he would still name plagiarists if he were a student editor today, even though the proliferation of Web archives and search engines would make it easier for employers to identify the student as a plagiarizer.

“This isn’t high school,” Folkenflik said. “College isn’t quite the professional world, but people are learning to act like adults and recognize their actions have consequences.”

There can also be consequences for the news organizations that hire these students. After Jayson Blair was outed as a serial plagiarist at The New York Times, some of his former classmates at the University of Maryland sent a letter to administrators of the journalism school saying they tried unsuccessfully to warn faculty members about ethical problems during Blair’s tenure as editor-in-chief of the student newspaper there.

The letter details one instance where Blair allegedly lifted quotes from an Associated Press story while covering a football game between the University of Maryland and the University of Georgia for the student paper. In that same story, Blair quoted a student, “freshman undecided major Eric Bouch,” whose identity could not be confirmed using university records, according to the letter.

“Mr. Blair’s disgraceful behavior at The New York Times resembled a recurring pattern we witnessed when he worked at The Diamondback, including his time as editor-in-chief from 1996-1997,” the letter reads.

Student newspapers can be at a disadvantage when dealing with students who commit ethical violations because they lack the institutional memory professional papers have, said Frank LoMonte, director of the Student Press Law Center. Because of graduation, many college papers have an entirely new staff every two years, and some don’t have a faculty adviser to help guide them through tough ethical choices.

“When you’re trying to maintain consistency year after year after year, it doesn’t help that you have a memory dump every two years,” LoMonte said.

Further complicating matters for student editors is the additional layer of bureaucracy on college campuses, LoMonte said. In one instance, Jason Ally, the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper of the University of Virginia, faced expulsion from the university’s Honor Committee after he published an editor’s note describing an instance of plagiarism. He was charged with “breaching the confidentiality of another student,” according to the Associated Press. A student jury decided to drop the case.

Student journalists are caught between professional and academic roles, which complicates ethical decisions, said Christopher Meyers, director of the Kegley Institute of Ethics at California State University, Bakersfield. If a student was suspected of academic dishonesty in class, they would be entitled to a discreet review. But journalism is conducted in public, which changes the expectations of privacy.

Although he says student editors should err on the side of identification, those decisions aren’t black and white.

“Context always matters in good ethics reasoning,” Meyers said in an email to Poynter. “How egregious is the violation? What position does the reporter have? What was the story about? Were others’ reputations damaged by the violation?”

Professional newspapers aren’t uniform in the way they handle cases of plagiarism, said Norman Lewis, a journalism professor at the University of Florida. Lewis, who examined 76 cases of newspaper plagiarism for his dissertation on newspaper plagiarism, said news organizations sometimes run corrections that identify the offense without naming the offender. They have also run separate news stories explaining particularly egregious episodes — as The New York Times did with Jayson Blair.

Lewis says editors should make a distinction between plagiarism and fabrication when it comes time to take corrective action. Plagiarism is an error, and newspapers should identify the offender by name only if the paper names staffers responsible for other errors. Fabricators, on the other hand, should be identified in a separate news story because their misconduct affects reader understanding of what actually happened.

Regardless, students who fabricate and plagiarize should be treated the same way as their professional counterparts, he said.

“If you’re old enough to vote for the president of the free world, you’re old enough to avoid plagiarism,” he said. Read more

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Fareed Zakaria

5 Zakaria articles are ‘problematic,’ Washington Post says

Our Bad Media | Newsweek

Washington Post editorial page Editor Fred Hiatt said five Fareed Zakaria articles “strike me as problematic in their absence of full attribution.”

Those five were part of six identified as unoriginal by the anonymous media critics @blippoblappo and @crushingbort in a post Monday. The posts contained plagiarism, patchwriting or material repurposed from press releases, they wrote.

In one instance, a Zakaria piece from August 2011 contains a passage identical to one in a Foreign Policy article. In another, lines in a 2012 column echo passages from a White House press release.

The five “problematic” articles, Hiatt told Poynter in an email, are “unfair to readers and to the original sources. We will take a fuller look over the next day or two, but we probably will attach messages to the archived editions of the five columns.”

Newsweek on Friday removed the editor’s note it had placed over Zakaria’s archives for that publication, placing individual corrections on “articles that Newsweek staffers felt warranted them.” (One such note says Zakaria’s work “borrows extensively from June 1, 2004 remarks by John Kerry without proper attribution.”)

Slate on Monday put an editor’s note on a 1998 Zakaria column that “failed to properly attribute quotations and information” from another piece. @blippoblappo and @crushingbort torched that column in September. Slate Group Editor-in-Chief Jacob Weisberg told Politico’s Dylan Byers “I respect but don’t agree with” the decision. “Getting too much information from a credited source may be lazy,” Weisberg said. “It may even be bad manners. But it is not, in my opinion, an ethical infraction.”

The Post reviewed Zakaria’s work in August 2012, after he apologized for lifting words from The New Yorker in a column for Time.

In his email to Poynter, Hiatt noted all the Washington Post examples @crushingbort and @blippoblappo identified predated that incident, “when Fareed acknowledged similar problems in a column for Time magazine. At that time he said that he was overextended and that he would simplify his schedule to put more priority on his column and to make sure no such problems recurred,” Hiatt said. Read more

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School board candidate says plagiarism was due to a mistake

Chalkbeat

Indianapolis Public School Board candidate Ramon Batts used material from the ACLU and two other organizations in replies to a survey by the education publication Chalkbeat.

He says it’s because he was up late, Hayleigh Colombo reports:

“That’s what happens when you’re doing things at 1 or 2 a.m,” said Batts.

Someone working for his campaign helped him compile the research before he sent in his responses, he said, and the citations to those sources were accidentally left off when he submitted the survey.

“It’s something I should have seen and caught,” he said.

However it happened, Batts’ plagiarism is a reminder that lifted text isn’t just a problem in journalism. It pops up surprisingly often at the intersection of education and public life:

Free resource: Is it original? An editor’s guide to identifying plagiarism Read more

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Tallahassee Democrat sports reporter resigns after plagiarizing: ‘I am sincerely sorry’

Tallahassee Democrat

A Florida State University sports reporter for the Tallahassee Democrat has resigned after plagiarizing a story by a freelance reporter.

The paper was made aware earlier this week that a story by reporter Natalie Pierre bore several similarities to an article by freelance writer Tim Linafelt, Tallahassee Democrat editor Bob Gabordi wrote in an editor’s note on the paper’s website:

“After investigating further, we concluded that it was too similar to be pure coincidence, that pieces – at least — of the story were plagiarized. Pierre resigned and no longer will report on behalf of our news organization.”

RELATED: Get real-world recommendations for preventing and handling issues of plagiarism based on the National Plagiarism Summit

Pierre apologized on her personal website, saying she “did not intentionally plagiarize” from Linafelt, while taking “full responsibility for some of freelance writer Tim Linafelt’s words appearing in my story”.

She also tweeted out an apology, which her former boss thanked her for:

Earlier this month, I made a flowchart for editors to help identify and classify different types of plagiarism. If you’re stumped about a case of unethical lifting, check it out. Read more

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Newsweek boss: ‘clearly enough’ examples to put editor’s note on Zakaria archive

On Monday Newsweek placed an editor’s note on Fareed Zakaria’s entire archive for the magazine. It says, “some of his articles have been the subject of complaints claiming that they contain material that should have been attributed to others.”

The anonymous critics @blippoblappo and @crushingbort published a post Aug. 22 outlining what they said were instances of plagiarism in Zakaria’s 2008 book “The Post-American World” and in Newsweek and Foreign Affairs.

Reached by phone, Newsweek Editor-in-Chief Jim Impoco said simply, “The examples I saw were clearly enough for me to append a note.”

Impoco also took issue with the now-kind-of-bruited claim that he hadn’t answered a previous request for comment from Poynter about Zakaria articles that Newsweek published before he was editor and when a different company owned the magazine.

On Aug. 22, I contacted Foreign Affairs and W.W. Norton, which published “The Post-American World.” My coworker Ben Mullin emailed The Atlantic, where Zakaria was recently named a contributing editor, and Kate Gardiner, IBT’s director of social media and audience engagement, to ask if she’d pass on a message to Impoco that Poynter wanted comment. Gardiner confirms she forwarded him that message, but Impoco said he had expected to see a followup message from Poynter after that.

So just an update for those keeping score on this game of inside baseball: Newsweek and Poynter have now talked after Poynter first launched that star-crossed search for comment. No reply from Norton or Foreign Affairs yet. Poynter has been in touch with Atlantic Media, but it hasn’t yet offered any comment. Read more

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Star Tribune runs ad bashing transgender kids

mediawiremorningGood morning. Here are 10 media stories.

  1. News Corp buys online real estate business: Move, Inc., owns Realtor.com, Move.com and ListHub. News Corp will “turbo-charge traffic growth” to Move’s properties, and it will “benefit from the high-quality geographic data generated by real estate searches,” CEO Robert Thomson says. (BusinessWire) | Last year Move “reported $600,000 in profit atop $227 million in revenue.” (NYT)
  2. Minneapolis Star Tribune ran an ad bashing transgender kids: The Minnesota Child Protection League ran a full-page ad Sunday in an attempt to influence the Minnesota State High School League, which may “approve a new policy that would allow transgender students to participate in athletics based on their gender identity.” Strib VP Steve Yaeger tells Aaron Rupar: “The ad in question met all the requirements of our ad policy.” (Minneapolis City Pages) | Earlier this year the Strib took some heat for how it reported on a transgender person. (Minneapolis City Pages)
  3. Esquire botches attack on ESPN: There was no all-male domestic violence panel planned, ESPN said Monday. (Deadspin) | Esquire apologized for that and for “saying that ESPN is not in the business of journalism,” Hearst Digital editorial director Kate Lewis writes in a note on the piece. Esquire is owned by Hearst, which has a 20 percent stake in ESPN, Jeremy Barr reports. “A Hearst spokesperson did not respond directly to a Capital inquiry about whether the company’s investment in ESPN played a role in the apology.” (Capital) | Despite the apology, Esquire kept a sentence that said “ESPN is not a company in the business of journalism” in the story until later that evening. (WP) | Craig Silverman finds articles with the erroneous information were shared far more widely than articles that corrected it. (Emergent)
  4. Roxane Gay will edit cultural criticism site: The Toast has hired the bestselling author to head up a new site called The Butter. (Capital) | Not at all related but this was the only item I could wedge it into: Piers Morgan will write commentary for Daily Mail Online. (Politico)
  5. Newsweek places editor’s note over Zakaria archives: “Fareed Zakaria worked for Newsweek when it was under previous ownership,” the note, which also rides along on Zakaria’s archived articles, says. “Readers are advised that some of his articles have been the subject of complaints claiming that they contain material that should have been attributed to others.” (Poynter) | “New Fun Trawling Through Fareed Zakaria’s @Newsweek Archives, Part 1″ (@blippoblappo)
  6. Will Bill Simmons stay at ESPN? He “did not think that what he said or how he said it was worthy of one of the harshest suspensions in ESPN history,” John Ourand reported Friday in a tick-tock of how ESPN decided to put its star on ice. Simmons’ contract will be up next year, Ourand writes, and “it will be interesting to see whether this suspension derails those talks.” (SportsBusiness Daily) | The clash reflects a generational conflict at ESPN, Jason McIntyre reported Friday. “The old guard has its fingers crossed they can pester and annoy Simmons to the point that he pulls the trigger on a plan they claim he’s been mulling after spending so much time in Hollywood: decamp from ESPN to a venture capital-backed solo operation with contributions from his West Coast buddies Jimmy Kimmel and Adam Carolla.” (The Big Lead) | Erik Wemple: Suspensions “are effective primarily in forgetting and neglecting the root causes of the stupidity that materializes on air.” (WP)
  7. Chartbeat can now measure readers’ attention: The Media Ratings Council has approved Chartbeat’s bid to measure attention rather than pageviews or unique visitors. (Gigaom) | “If you’re dealing with something where you can prove attention better, you can charge more,” Chartbeat CEO Tony Haile tells Andrew Nusca. (Fortune) | Haile noted in February that there is “effectively no correlation between social shares and people actually reading.” (The Verge) | Rick Edmonds in March: “Time to ditch uniques and page views for engagement in measuring digital audiences” (Poynter)
  8. RIP Joe Nawrozki: The investigative reporter worked for three Baltimore newspapers, dug up political corruption among pols, and “taught martial arts for more than 40 years.” He died Saturday. He was 70. (The Baltimore Sun)
  9. Front page of the day, curated by Kristen Hare: Taiwan’s Apple Daily fronts the Hong Kong protests. (Courtesy Newseum)

    appledaily_09302014 

  10. Job moves, edited by Benjamin Mullin: Ann Shoket will be a consultant for Hearst. Previously, she was editor-in-chief of Seventeen magazine. (Capital) | Kal Penn will be a special correspondent for Fusion. Previously, he was associate director of the White House’s Office of Public Engagement. (Politico) | Richard Tomko is now publisher of amNewYork. Previously, he was a consultant at Boost Digital. (Email) | Tony Brancato is now executive director of Web products and audience development at The New York Times. Previously, he was head of product for the Web there. (The New York Times) | Sandy Johnson is now president and chief operating officer at The National Press Foundation. Previously, she was the excecutive editor at Stateline.org. (National Press Foundation) | Jeff Simon will be a video producer at CNN. He’s a producer for The Washington Post. (@jjsimonWP) | Cynthia Littleton will be Variety’s managing editor for television. Previously, she was editor-in-chief of television. Claudia Eller and Andrew Wallenstein are now co-editors-in-chief at Variety. Eller was editor-in-chief of film at Variety. Wallenstein was editor-in-chief of digital there. (Variety) | Sonya Thompson will be director of news projects for Tribune Media Group. She was news director for WJW in Cleveland. Mitch Jacob will be news director at WJLA. He was news director for WSYX in Columbus. Jamie Justice will be news director at WSYX in Columbus. Previously, she was assistant news director there. Rob Cartwright is now news director for KEYE in Austin. Previously, he was news director for WSYR in Syracuse. Jeff Houston is now news director for WBMA in Birmingham. Previously, he was an assistant news director there. (Rick Gevers) | James VanOsdol has been named newsroom program manager at Rivet News Radio. He is an anchor at HearHere Radio LLC. (Robert Feder) | Job of the day: Politico is looking for a tax reporter. Get your résumés in! (Journalism Jobs) | Send Ben your job moves: bmullin@poynter.org

Suggestions? Criticisms? Would like me to send you this roundup each morning? Please email me: abeaujon@poynter.org. Read more

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Newsweek places editor’s note over Zakaria archives

This editor’s note now sits on Newsweek’s author page for Fareed Zakaria:

Fareed Zakaria worked for Newsweek when it was under previous ownership. Readers are advised that some of his articles have been the subject of complaints claiming that they contain material that should have been attributed to others. In addition, readers with information about articles by Mr. Zakaria that may purportedly lack proper attribution are asked to e-mail Newsweek at corrections@newsweek.com

Zakaria’s last story for Newsweek was published in September 2010, according to the archive. (The note is on that story, and others in the archive, as well.) IAC/Interactive sold Newsweek to the owners of the International Business Times last year.

Two anonymous online critics, @blippoblappo and @crushingbort, have peppered Zakaria with plagiarism charges, including some regarding his time at Newsweek. Read more

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Spin loses another editor-in-chief

mediawiremorningGood morning. Here are 10 media stories.

  1. Craig Marks is no longer EIC of Spin: Marks tells Poynter via email he’s out. He was the publication’s fourth editor in two years. Stephen Blackwell, SpinMedia’s fourth CEO in the same amount of time, told me Monday that he had “high hopes” for the publication, and that it would add more editing talent soon. (Poynter) | A quick phone call with Marks: “It was a mutual and amicable decision that I would leave,” he said. “With the new CEO and the new regime it felt like the right time to part ways. I would like to pursue other interests including trying to finally get a bead on my next book.” Marks, who was executive editor at the magazine in the ’90s (I worked with him then for a spell then, in my first media job), took the job in June and says the split was not performance-related. I asked him whether he felt like his brief stay there — a summer job? — had been a waste of time. “No, not at all,” he said. “It was really great, even if it was brief, to be back at Spin and to help restore and revive a publication that meant a lot and means a lot to people, and I sincerely hope I helped lay the groundwork for Spin to be good and relevant and meaningful.”
  2. Somaly Mam says she didn’t lie: “This past May, Mam’s life imploded after a Newsweek report left the impression that she had fabricated her life story and had encouraged a girl in her care to lie that she had been trafficked,” Abigail Pesta writes. “While in Cambodia, I investigated the claims against Mam and spoke to people cited in the Newsweek piece, three of whom said their views were misrepresented. One of the three, identified in Newsweek as a woman, is, in fact, a man.” (Marie Claire)
  3. Mark Ruffalo visited The Boston Globe: The actor was researching his role as reporter Michael Rezendes in “Spotlight,” a film about the Globe’s reporting on the Catholic Church’s sex-abuse scandal. (The Boston Globe)
  4. “On this beat if you fuck up with the national office, you’re fucked”: Dave McKenna writes about the uneven power relationships between the league and its media “partners” that makes independent NFL coverage very difficult. (Deadspin) | Related: Advertisers, including Anheuser-Busch and McDonald’s, have said they’re not satisfied with the NFL’s response to child abuse and domestic violence charges against players. (ESPN)
  5. Influential LGBT people in media: NPR reporter Ari Shapiro (currently enduring the sound of bagpipes as he covers the Scots referendum), Janet Mock, Re/code’s Ina Fried and Capital’s Tom McGeveran make the top 50. (Advocate)
  6. New offices for Gawker publications: “For want of others seeking the role, we are the guardians of independent media,” Gawker Media honcho Nick Denton (No. 7 on the Advocate list) says in a memo to staffers, telling them they’ll soon be blogging from 114 Fifth Ave. (Re/code) | “The new office is just a few blocks from Gawker competitors Buzzfeed and Business Insider, and is in the same building as social news site Mashable and Pierre Omidyar’s First Look Media, which is where former Gawker editor John Cook currently works.” (Capital)
  7. Is it plagiarism? Ben Mullin made a handy flowchart for editors and media watchers. (Poynter)
  8. Journalist murdered in Afghanistan: Palwasha Tokhi Miranzai “was repeatedly stabbed by unidentified men inside her house in Mazar-e-Sharif city.” (Khaama Press)
  9. Front page of the day, selected by Kristen Hare: A scary waterspout on the front of the Pensacola News Journal. (Courtesy Newseum)

    pensacola-09172014 

  10. Job moves, edited by Benjamin Mullin: Guy Vidra will become the new CEO of The New Republic. He is the general manager of Yahoo News. Owner Chris Hughes will remain as publisher but will no longer be editor-in-chief. (The New Republic) | Dana Liebelson will be a political reporter at HuffPost Politics. She’s a reporter for Mother Jones. (Email) | Ashley Codianni is now a senior producer and digital correspondent for CNN Politics Digital. She’s Mashable’s director of news video. (Fishbowl DC) | Cara Parks has been named executive editor at Modern Farmer. She was previously a freelancer and deputy managing editor at Foreign Policy. (Observer.com) | Suejin Yang has been named vice president and general manager of digital entertainment at People and Entertainment Weekly. Previously, she was vice president of Bravo Digital Media. (Fishbowl NY) | Job of the day: ProPublica is looking for a research editor. Get your résumés in! (Journalism Jobs) | Send Ben your job moves: bmullin@poynter.org

Suggestions? Criticisms? Would like me to send you this roundup each morning? Please email me: abeaujon@poynter.org. Read more

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Screen Shot 2014-09-16 at 2.02.28 PM

Is it original? An editor’s guide to identifying plagiarism

If you’re reading this, it happened again. Right now, an editor may be about to issue an apology or a stern rebuttal. Someone’s reputation and body of work is being scrutinized. And a gaggle of self-appointed fact-checkers may be plugging sentence after sentence into Google for any traces of dishonesty. If you’re reading this, a journalist has been accused of what Poynter’s Roy Peter Clark calls “the unoriginal sin”: plagiarism.

Plagiarism is a serious charge. If true, it has the potential to upend a career and mar a journalist’s reputation for life. And yet, in today’s world of aggregated news, plagiarism is an imprecise word that stands for a spectrum of offenses related to unoriginal work. And its severity varies dramatically depending on a variety of circumstances.

So before you jump on Twitter to excoriate or defend the media’s latest alleged idea thief, take a minute to go over the following checklist to determine for yourself whether the charges are true. Also, you can cut out or take a screen shot of our plagiarism flowchart for editors.

  1. Is some of the language in the article unoriginal? Is the central idea of the story unoriginal?
    In his 2007 dissertation on plagiarism in newspapers, Norman Lewis put forth the following definition of plagiarism: “Using someone else’s words or original ideas without attribution.” This definition, he says, focuses on the act of plagiarism itself and disregards questions of intent. Whether or not the journalist meant to plagiarize is a question best reserved for determining the severity of the crime, not for establishing whether it happened.
  2. Did the author fail to set off unoriginal language or ideas with quotation marks?
    Attribution is the opposite of plagiarism, Lewis says, and the clearest indicator of attribution is quotation marks, followed by a citation. The National Summit to Fight Plagiarism and Fabrication put it this way: “Principled professionals credit the work of others, treating others as they would like to be treated themselves.”

  3. Does the author fail to attribute the work in some other way, such as a paraphrase with credit?
    Without proper credit, a paraphrase can be used to conceal plagiarism. As Lewis writes, “treating paraphrasing as a plagiarism panacea ignores the fact that a person who cribs from someone else’s work is still cribbing, even if he or she is adept at rewording.”

  4. Did the author lift more than seven words verbatim from another source?
    For editors and readers trying to evaluate cases of plagiarism, the 7 to 10-word threshold is a useful guideline, said Kelly McBride, Poynter’s vice president of academic programs. The basic idea is that it’s hard to incidentally replicate seven consecutive words that appear in another author’s work. This is not an absolute rule, however — both McBride and Lewis acknowledge that there’s no easy equation to determine what constitutes plagiarism.

If you answered ‘yes’ to all the questions above, then the accusations being hurled around on Twitter are at least partially right; there’s a legitimate case of unoriginal work masquerading as fresh content. But before you call it plagiarism, remember that there might be a more nuanced word for what’s being discussed. Plagiarism.org lists 10 types of thievery, each with their own degrees of severity, and iThenticate, a plagiarism detection service, lists five additional kinds of lifting in its summary on plagiarism in research.

Here’s a sampling of some unoriginal writing you might run into:

  • Self-plagiarism:
    The outing of Jonah Lehrer, one of the most prominent self-plagiarizers in recent memory, touched off a vigorous debate about whether writers who recycle their own work without acknowledging its unoriginality are guilty of plagiarism or some lesser charge. Poynter vice president and senior scholar Roy Peter Clark, along with New York Times standards editor Phil Corbett says “self-plagiarism” should be called something else; writing before the Lehrer incident, Lewis said self-plagiarism was “less an ethical infraction than a potential violation of ownership rights.” McBride likened Lehrer’s duplicitous duplications to a boyfriend who “recycles the same seemingly spontaneous romantic moments on a succession of dates.” Reuters media critic Jack Shafer argues that you can’t steal from yourself.

  • Patchwriting:
    If the author didn’t copy verbatim, he or she may be guilty of intellectual dishonesty — even if they credit the source. Journalists who craft paraphrases that mirror their source material with the exception of a few jumbled-up words are perpetrators of “patchwriting,” which McBride defines as “relying too heavily on the vocabulary and syntax of the source material.” Clark argues that this is a lesser charge than plagiarism if a writer credits their source. McBride has called it “just as dishonest” as plagiarism.

  • Excessive aggregation:
    Rewriting an entire article, even with proper credit (or an obligatory h/t), is a form of appropriation. Plagiarism.org lists aggregation without original ideas as one of the least severe forms of plagiarism because it does not deceive readers about the source of the information. A sure way to avoid excessive aggregation is to transform the original work by adding value to it, McBride said.

  • Idea theft:
    Relying too heavily on another journalist’s original story ideas and concepts is “quite common in journalism and not intellectually honest,” McBride said. This can occur when a reporter sets out to “match” a story by interviewing the same sources without acknowledging the news was first reported elsewhere.

Still unsure whether something was plagiarized? We made a flowchart to help you decide. Click on the image below for a PDF you can cut out and keep nearby for the next time you come across suspicious copy.
PlagiarismFlowchart-01 Read more

Tools:
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