By Amy Tardif, RTDNA Region 13 Director / News Director WGCU-FM
Does everything on your airwaves and website get a second set of eyes? Are those eyes trained to find more than grammatical errors? Apparently not every newsroom is doing enough. But now there’s a guide book that will help.
Poynter Institute adjunct faculty member and founder/editor of the blog “Regret the Error,” Craig Silverman, called last summer the “Summer of Sin” because he said, “It was one of the worst summers for plagiarism, fabrication and ethical misdeeds in recent journalistic history.” He asked for help which turned into a National Summit to Fight Plagiarism and Fabrication held at the American Copy Editors Society’s 17th National Conference in St. Louis on April 5. The Summit unveiled five months of work by 23 volunteers from ten professional organizations, including RTDNA, which wrote the first e-book on Plagiarism and Fabrication.
Using University of Florida assistant professor of journalism Dr. Norman Lewis’s doctoral dissertation on plagiarism as a starting point, the team was led by retired New York Times senior editor William Connolly.
The book defines the problem, tells how to build barriers to plagiarism including who does it and why as well as policies that can help. The writers agree the solution is attribution.
A chapter on responding to lapses includes how to detect plagiarism in writing, photographs and videos. It includes how to establish protocols, sanctions and consequences. It offers sample questions for interviewing an accused plagiarist and how to decide on punishment.
Another chapter separates misdemeanor plagiarism, perhaps what may be a “teachable moment,” from a professional felony. Bob Heisse, executive editor of the State Journal-Register in Springfield, Illinois organized this chapter. At the summit, he said it provides ways for newsrooms to create their own policies and suggests everyone, including freelancers, be required to sign a statement (promising not to) plagiarize or fabricate.
Does your newsroom have a policy regarding plagiarism and fabrication? What guidelines have you established? Let us know in the comments below.
Former RTDNA board members Mark Willis and Stacey Woelfel worked on the book, along with current board member Amy Tardif. They invite you to attend a session at Excellence in Journalism 2013 that will highlight the plagiarism project. Presenters will include Teresa Schmedding, President of ACES and Deputy Managing Edtior of Digital Operations for the Daily Herald Media Group and Mike Farrell, Director of the Scripps Howard First Amendment Center at the University of Kentucky, and a member of SPJ's ethics committee.
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