Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Plagiarism uncovered by student editor

The Port Huron Times-Herald recently severed relations with a free lance writer after learning his movie reviews were plagiarized from IMBD.com. The newspaper editor was quoted:

"It is always disheartening to learn of such breeches of ethics in our profession," Ruddick said. "After 30 years in this business, I am still shocked every time I hear a fellow journalist has perpetrated such a fraud on readers. I have zero tolerance for it. At the other end of the spectrum, however, are these two young journalists at Central Michigan University who, after discovering a colleague and friend had plagiarized articles submitted for publication, never hesitated to do the right thing. I am proud to be their colleague and congratulate CMU for producing such fine young journalists."

Mark Smith of Grandville, editor-in-chief of Central Michigan Life, on reading the article in question was suspicious of certain word usage in the movie review and merely Googled it. It had been basically copied word-for-word. No sophisticated plagiarism detection software was needed.


One recalls also the story on fried green tomatoes plagiarized from Southern Living.
A freelance food columnist for Mississippi's largest newspaper has been accused of plagiarizing a story about fried green tomatoes, and The Clarion-Ledger said the writer's work will no longer appear in its pages.


Blogger Lawrence B. Ebert said...

Dean Lawrence R. Velvel has an article posted at counterpunch on (among other things) the topic of plagiarism.

Included in the text:

Take, for example, the Dean of the Harvard Law School, through whom the punishments apparently would have to run, as it were. Not quite twenty years ago, when she was a law student, she appears to have been a significant ghostwriter for a major treatise of one of the Harvard professors who has now been caught plagiarizing in a significant book and, apparently, having had that book ghostwritten for him besides. (Conceivably the plagiarism was by the ghostwriter, not by the professor, whose name is on the book, of course.) Now, having participated in what conceivably was ghostwriting for this professor's treatise, how can the Dean turn around and punish him for the ghostwriting (and plagiarism)? It would look like sheer hypocrisy. True, she apparently was a youngster when she was a ghostwriter. Doubtlessly she, like the professor's other young ghostwriters, was desperate to get this middle aged liberal professor's approval and his recommendation that would open the doors at the highest levels of government -- a few years later she did have a responsible position in the Clinton White House.

As discussed here previously, she and Summers, both high level veterans of the immoral morass of Washington, may well have figured that if they simply refused to discuss the contretemps, or at most downplayed it, it would go away regardless of how great the trenching on academic integrity.

IPBiz: interesting that this strategy worked well at Harvard, but the poor ex-students at Ohio University are being hunted down.

11:12 AM  
Blogger Lawrence B. Ebert said...

At Syracuse University:

Personally, I have never known what the exact definition of plagiarism is. The official policy defines plagiarism, in somewhat vague language, as the use of "someone else's language, ideas, information or original material without acknowledging the source." It may seem straightforward at first, but once you think about it, a few questions arise. Mainly, there is the problem of defining how much of a person's language or idea it is permissible to use before it becomes plagiarism.

In other words, the writer has to make clear to the reader what information is and is not hers by referencing whatever information she cannot claim as her own. To help students and professors determine what is and isn't plagiarism, Syracuse University is considering using a Web site called www.turnitin.com. This Web site can compare a paper to a database of other publications and analyze how much of the paper might be plagiarized work. According to Elletta Callahan, the Web site defines plagiarism as being a string of eight or more identical words. But, as Callahan adds, plagiarism is more about the theft of unique phrases, even those that may only be one or two words.

9:23 AM  

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