Friday, December 01, 2006

Minneapolis Star Tribune plagiarism: oops, we did it again

IPBiz had discussed a plagiarism incident involving an editorial at the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Regrettheerror describes what has happened AFTERWARDS:

The Star Trib subsequently refused to name the offending writer, and also declined to investigate his previous work to verify this was a one time occurrence. The paper wouldn't even reveal his identity to its reader's representative, thus preventing her from doing a proper inquiry.

In light of the paper's questionable actions (or inaction), someone decided to step up and show them the way: the paper yesterday revealed that a new accusation of plagiarism has been leveled, and it involves the same writer allegedly lifting from the same source. So now the paper has named him and launched an investigation into his previous work.

At this point, the bigger issue has become the stonewalling by the Star Tribune. A different variant of stonewalling involved the journal Science concerning patent continuations, and is discussed in 88 JPTOS 743 (Sept. 2006).

An AP story carried by the Boston Globe began:

The Star Tribune said it was reviewing a year's worth of work by one of its editorial page writers after discovering that two of his pieces contained similarities to the work of a writer at The New Yorker.

Steve Berg, who has worked at the Star Tribune for 30 years, will not be writing for the paper during the review, said Susan Albright, the editorial page editor.

The AP story did not mention the previous stonewalling by the Star Tribune.

In the area of student plagiarism, the Daily Utah Chronicle wrote on Nov. 30:

Trust is the most important element in newspaper writing.

Without it, editors would have to scour the gamut of written history to ensure that every piece contained nothing but original content. Sources would be wary to speak with reporters, and readers wouldn't be able to hold any individual accountable for fallacies or misinterpretations in a story. There would be little reason to read newspapers at all.

We try our best to maintain reader trust at The Daily Utah Chronicle, but all it takes is a single incident to embarrass the reputation of not just our writers, our sections and our paper, but the entire profession that many of us have chosen to pursue.

The actions of former Arts & Entertainment writer Mark Mitchell since his hiring in September-copying or mimicking editorial content from major news outlets such as USA Today, Salon and The Onion-have seriously compromised our consistent, collective effort to provide a legitimate and reliable news source to U students.

We wish to emphasize that his callous plagiarism evoked utter shock and disbelief from the rest of The Chronicle's staff. In no way does Mitchell's arrant disregard for honesty and responsibility reflect the attitudes of other writers here, who invest countless hours each week out of concern for the quality of their products.

IPBiz asks: which response was preferable, that of the Star Tribune or that of the Daily Utah Chronicle?

**UPDATE. Dec. 17**

The Boston Herald (through AP) reported: A Star Tribune editorial page writer who wrote two pieces containing similarities to two commentaries in The New Yorker magazine will return to work after a newspaper review did not find further problems in his work.

Steve Berg, who was not writing for the paper during the review, will return to writing Jan. 2, editorial page editor Susan Albright wrote in early editions of Sunday’s newspaper.

The review of a year’s worth of Berg’s work found only the two “improper and unfortunate” instances of “nonattribution,” Albright wrote.

“Reacting to a right-wing blog, the newspaper found unintentional insufficient attribution in a fraction of 1 percent of my work,” Berg said. “I’ll put that up against anybody.”


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