Boston Herald Accused of Plagiarism

Yesterday, The Huffington Post revealed that the Boston Herald’s "Inside Track" gossip column reused large blocks of text from an Editor and Publisher (E&P) article without attribution or permission.

According to the Huffington Post’, the Herald lifted, with only minor edits, nearly the entire E&P article on the Vanity Fair/Dan Brown controversy and placed it both in the print and the online editions of their paper. When informed of the similarities, the Herald removed the infringing article from the online version and "Inside Track" co-editor Gayle Fee told the Huffington Post that she "rewrote the E&P piece on deadline" and "should have credited them."

However, what makes the situation even more bizarre is that the Vanity Fair article at the center of both pieces deals with new allegations of plagiarism being leveled against Dan Brown, the author of "The Davinci Code". It’s a coincidence that has not escaped the attention, and humor, of other media outlets.

The Boston Globe, reporting on the Herald’s scrape, quoted E&P Editor Greg Mitchell as saying that while the whole ordeal "’Didn’t bother him much’", that "the irony of a plagiarism story being ripped off, whether calculatedly or carelessly, ‘almost speaks for itself.’"

Unfortunately, as of this writing, very little seems to be resolved with this matter. In an article posted today by the E&P staff, the site called the Herald’s explanation "decidedly weak" and said that no one from the Herald has contacted them to apologize. No correction has appeared on The Inside Track’s site. (Note: Since I do not have access to the print version, I can not verify if a correction has appeared there. I would appreciate any help in this matter.)

To make matters worse for the Herald, The Weekly Dig reported yesterday about another case of eerily familiar content appearing in the Herald, this one taking place in the May 31st edition of the paper and involving an article in the New York Times. The two articles, which discussed the phenomenon of "ringxiety", a condition where random sounds make people think their phone is ringing, bore striking similarities to one another when placed side-by-side, despite obvious differences between them.

While The Weekly Dig stopped short of calling the incident plagiarism, it is definitely another cause for concern for the Herald staff.

However, what is most discouraging is these cases is that the E&P incident appears to be part of an ongoing but recent trend of traditional journalism outfits plagiarizing online sources (Note: Though E&P is a print publication, the article involved appears to be online only) and the New York Times one a part of a similar trend involving fellow newspapers. With so many bloggers, Webmasters and online journalists looking to the mainstream media for ethical guidance, one has to wonder if and how this will affect the ethical climate online.

For better or worse, that climate will determine much about how successful Webmasters are at protecting their content online and, eventually, the usefulness and trustworthiness of the Internet as a news source.

This story will very likely be updated as events develop.

[tags]Plagiarism, Content Theft, Boston Herald, Boston Globe, Vanity Fair, Copyright Infringement[/tags]

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