NH editor's front page column calls out competitor for plagiarism

The editor of a New Hampshire newspaper has published a front page column to expose plagiarism at a competing paper.

"If one of my reporters did what Compass Sports Editor Joe Milliken did last week, they’d be fired on the spot," begins the column by Roger Carroll, the editor and general manager of the Claremont Eagle Times.

Carroll said Milliken stole his March 5 story about a boys basketball game in Vermont. (The Milliken story is not online.) Carroll said he knew it was stolen because Milliken was not at the game in question and yet the Compass story included the same game details and quotes from coaches. From Carroll's column:

I talked to both coaches after the game and, without any semblance of attribution, Milliken lifted my quotes from coaches Harry Ladue and Phil Davis. Both men told me they never talked to Milliken, who then went on to give precise game information as if he was reporting it firsthand.

After spotting the theft, Carroll contacted Compass publisher Lee Johndrow to raise his concerns. Johndrow compared the text of the two pieces and spoke with Milliken.

“He didn’t deny it,” Carroll quotes Johndrow telling him. “He apologized profusely.” (I contacted Johndrow and Milliken for comment but have not heard back.)

Carroll was moved to write his front page column after Milliken offered what he felt were disingenuous apologies.

"Ultimately it came down to Joe himself," Carroll said by email. "I just couldn't bring myself to look the other way anymore. Especially once it became clear -- after a series of maddening email exchanges -- that he would apologize for just about anything, but not for stealing my work."

Carroll's column detailed Milliken's response:

Milliken apologized repeatedly to me, too, though not for the plagiarism.

“I will apologize for this entire mishap and say that I am sorry that you feel I wrongly used your work and yes — I understand why you are upset,” he wrote in an email after our 20-minute phone conversation.

Carroll wrote in his column that he'd heard from other journalists that "Milliken’s been taking their stuff out of other papers and passing it off as his own for years."

Milliken had previously written up a game report without having seen the action himself, according to Carroll. That same offense led the Detroit Free Press to suspend columnist Mitch Albom in 2005, and it resulted in the firing of Chicago Sun-Times journalist Paige Wiser in 2011.

Carroll told me that an offense of this nature deserves front page treatment.

"Yes, we ran it out front, the same place we’d place it if we discovered one of our reporters using someone else’s stuff," Carroll said by email. He also wrote in the column that he felt airing the issue publicly was "the only way I can think of to get [Milliken] to stop ripping people off."

He said the column has so far attracted a lot of feedback, none of it negative.

"People have been pretty supportive of the article," he said. "I've not received a single negative call, comment or email (I get enough of those on the other days) and probably got 15 or 20 messages of support through one media or another. For our little shop, that's a lot."

Update: Joe Milliken spoke with Craig Silverman several months after this story was published. Milliken wanted to tell his side of the story, which he did. Carroll subsequently provided a scan of the original article, which contradicted Milliken's account.

Correction: This post originally said Roger Carroll went ahead with his column about the plagiarism after the next edition the Compass did not include an acknowledgement of the incident. Carroll says he wrote the column before Compass hit the streets.

  • Craig Silverman

    Craig Silverman (craig@craigsilverman.ca) is an award-winning journalist and the founder of Regret the Error, a blog that reports on media errors and corrections, and trends regarding accuracy and verification.


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