Reporter at Maine weekly fired for plagiarism

The Forecaster | Sentry

South Portland-Cape Elizabeth Sentry reporter Michael J. Tobin was fired after his paper learned he'd pasted material from The Forecaster and Current, two other weeklies that cover greater Portland, Maine.

Tobin, according to The Forecaster's Andrew Cullen, lifted work from The Forecaster's Mario Moretto and Current's Duke Harrington.

Tobin used content from three of the five stories Moretto wrote for Feb. 17, as well as from a story about a new emergency communication system planned for South Portland that was published last November. In some cases, Tobin took information Moretto paraphrased and used it as quoted material from sources Tobin had not interviewed.

On Wednesday, Tobin admitted he copied content from his competitors, but said he had not realized that doing so was wrong.

“I didn't copy whole stories. I cut and pasted things that were public knowledge, and not what one newspaper got,” although in some cases he copied the lead paragraphs of Moretto's stories, which typically analyze and sum up issues, rather than paraphrase information.

A publisher's note on the front page of this week's Sentry (available as a PDF) says the paper "acted swiftly to address" Tobin's deeds "when it was called to our attention." The Sentry fired him "within hours" of being contacted by editors of The Forecaster and Current, Cullen writes. Jim Gailey, the city manager of South Portland, "who reads all three of the local weeklies," alerted The Forecaster. || Related: Have newsrooms relaxed standards, sanctions for fabrication and plagiarism?

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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