October 8, 2012

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.”

People now play the “Google Game” — by entering lines from a plagiarist’s work into a search engine and seeing what turns up. There are also sites like IvyGate, which my colleague Andrew Beaujon calls the “scourge of Ivy League plagiarists.” The site outed a Columbia Daily Spectator writer last month for plagiarizing from The New York Times.

Around the same time, a student from Arizona State University’s State Press was also caught plagiarizing. Last week, a writer from Penn State’s The Daily Collegian was suspended for plagiarizing and fabricating quotes. These are just a few of the many plagiarism and fabrication cases that have occurred recently in newsrooms.

Related: 10 ways to prevent plagiarism, fabrication at college newspapers (& in any newsroom) | Meet IvyGate, the scourge of Ivy League plagiarists | Patchwriting is more common than plagiarism, just as dishonest | Journalism has an originality problem, not a plagiarism problem | Have newsrooms relaxed standards, sanctions for plagiarism and fabrication?

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As managing editor of The Poynter Institute’s website, Poynter.org, I report on the media news industry, edit the site’s How To section, and moderate the…
Mallary Jean Tenore

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