1. Joking or not (and though I buy that there was a sardonic quality to the quip, I don’t think the intention was to be merely ironic or humorous), there is SOME truth to what Rosen said. Perhaps he shouldn’t have named the blogs/aggregators he named, as they tend to actually have much better disclosure, transparency and “credit” qualities than many, many blogs (I’m sure in part because they are so large/well-read), but I don’t have a problem with the overall truth.

    It is a shame that this non-controversy controversy has the potential to take down a much bigger (and more important) story, and for that, I can only hope that the complainers can grow-up and come to terms with whatever insecurity issues they have over not writing for a “real” news organization and focus on being better than the fray and adhering to standards that even the traditional media often misses.

    On the actual story, I found the entire saga compelling, sad, and unfortunately utterly predictable. It was only by using Google and Nexus engines to search for exact passages that the entire breadth of the plagiarism was uncovered – meaning the plagiarizer went through an awful lot of trouble to concoct pieces that were both plagiarized and more difficult to prove or uncover. I guess I find the whole thing predictable because I saw much of the same behavior in college; many of my peers would do the exact same thing, glom together various pieces from different articles/websites/reviews/what have you and change it just enough so that if the professor did use a crawler to try to snuff out plagiarized texts (and only a few of my professors actually did, usually in the Speech and Communications classes — though there were pretty strict policies in my film classes too), they could beat the system. Sadly, despite having a pretty strong plagiarism policy, most professors didn’t even keep stuff on file or have the know-how (or really, interest) to check things to begin with. I did have one English professor who was VERY strict on plagiarism — even of the unintended/really benign variety. A friend of mine used like three words, a phrase really, that had been mentioned in the Cliff’s Notes for a book in which we were writing critical essays. She got an F on the paper for 3 words. Outwardly, I took my friend’s side that the punishment was really harsh (though she could have flunked the class over it), but internally, I asked myself I would have cited the phrase, and my answer was yes (that or I wouldn’t have used it at all) and I think that it was an important lesson for a student to learn.

    My rambling point is that perhaps if we had better education and enforcement of these sorts of things in journalism school, there would be fewer instances of it happening in the media.

  2. Though I agree with you that he wasn’t likely being purely ironic or humorous, it is hard for me to say he was being completely serious either. There may be some buried truth in what he said, but I don’t think the sites he listed were good examples nor do I think that it was the right way to go about making the point. It was a minor, forgivable mistake in my opinion, but an error nonetheless.

    I agree completely though that any flub made int his area needs to be forgotten immediately and the focus put back on the full story, which I also agree is compelling, important and very well-written.

    As a recent graduate of a journalism program (2002), I can say safely that I received a very heavy dose of plagiarism education, both in my writing classes and in my law & ethics course. Still, though I didn’t hear about any of my peers doing what you said they’ve done at your school, I can’t say it didn’t likely happen. At that time especially, plagiarism detection was weak and complicated so I have little doubt the system could be gamed.

    However, I don’t think better education would have helped in this case (perhaps the Jayson Blair scandal would be a bit better for this point) as this is clearly something well above and beyond your typical journalism scandal. Here you have a newspaper where ever article, likely for many years back, contained suspect material. This could not exist without tolerance from the editor and publisher.

    The problem is worse if you consider that there is some reason to suspect that the “writer” in the case does not exist at all. Remember, he could not be tracked down anywhere in the area. It could have been the editor or even the publisher using a nom de plume (nom de plagiarist?) and no amount of training can fix that level of lying and misuse. That is just flat out dishonesty, if it turns out to be true.

    So, while I agree we need better plagiarism education in all school curriculums, not just journalism, I doubt it would have helped in this case. Bad people do bad things and no amount of education fixes that.

    Thank you very much for your comment and your thoughts!

  3. I think you might have a point there. The rest of the article was very professional and matter of fact, excellent journalism, and the joke was likely taken seriously because of it. Perhaps a reminder to all of us to maintain tone…

    But yes, an excellent point.