Monday, November 12, 2007

UMissouri journalism prof guilty of plagiarism

An AP report out of Columbia, Missouri notes:

A distinguished University of Missouri-Columbia journalism professor will no longer write a weekly newspaper column after admitting he plagiarized material from a student reporter.

John Merrill, a professor emeritus at the university's School of Journalism, wrote a Sunday column for the Columbia Missourian, a community newspaper affiliated with the school.

It appears that the the concept of "unintentional plagiarism," popularized in the Poshard matter at Southern Illinois University, is catching on:

In a letter to Missourian editors, Merrill apologized for what he called "unintentional plagiarism."

"Careless, I'll admit, but not intentional," he said. "All these dozens and dozens of columns and some 30 books and innumerable magazine and newspaper articles and never before have I been accused of plagiarism."

Merrill is a former director of the Louisiana State University journalism school and also has taught at Northwestern State, Texas A&M, Maryland, Virginia, California State-Long Beach and the University of North Carolina.

Editor and Publisher quoted Merrill: “But I assure you that it was ‘unintentional’ plagiarism, and I had no reason to make it look as if I got these quotes from the sources directly. I was using them as a springboard for my opinion. But I did it, and I’m sorry. Careless, I’ll admit, but not intentional."

In an unrelated story in San Antonio, Bob Richter wrote of a blog plagiarism matter involving Harry Page:

... veteran E-N sports staffer Harry Page was terminated last week for lifting information — which he presented in his bowling blog as his own — from two websites:, the Web site of the U.S. Bowling Congress, and, the Professional Bowlers Association Tour Web site.


Page had worked in the sports department since April 19, 1970, and was one of the first people to greet me here when I joined the sports staff in 1978. I hate to see him go out like this, but, as Editor Robert Rivard told staff, the newspaper has "zero tolerance" for plagiarism.
[IPBiz: is this story real???]


Blogger Hugh St.-V said...

This serial theft by a professor of the nation's most distinguished school of print journalism is the equivalent of a military officer's carrying a sheaf of intelligence appreciations into a public house, or a priest throwing a party and serving the eucharistic elements as hors d'oeuvres. Plagiarism is the specific toxin of journalism, capable of dissolving the enterprise even squarely under the protections of the Constitution. In the U.S. Senate, an institution freely mocked by journalists, an implicit rule of longstanding holds that a member may lie to colleagues once; after that, the member is out of play for the duration of his or her incumbency. So should it be with plagiarism among journalists: one strike and you're out. I don't care if Mr. Merrill holds a Pulitzer and wears a Presidential Medal of Freedom around his neck, his deliberate, patterned, extensive theft from students is reprehensible. That he calls his habitual thievery "a mistake" and "accidental plagiarism" qualifies as moral turpitude in a scholar. Such plagiarism can blight the careers of students, as well as practitioners, just as those careers should be budding. Mr. Merrill should be barred from teaching, and as a condition of holding his Emeritus title should be censured by his colleagues (if either journalism or academia still have any vestigial pretense of self-policing professionalism). This would have happened already had Mr. Merrill besmirched the name of Northwestern, Columbia, Berkeley, Harvard or the University of Georgia. If the University of Missouri continues to shrug off this matter, then whenever that University is mentioned in any context within my earshot, it will not escape the most injurious opprobrium. Moreover, truth will have vindicated me against slander.

Hugh St.-V

8:22 PM  

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