First off, identifying and defining plagiarism is a hard task in itself. The Ledger Stylebook describes it as “the act of taking ideas, thoughts or words from another and passing them off as one’s own.” Ever since we were young kids, we have been told from all our teachers to not copy from other people’s work. With that being said, we have iconic geniuses like Albert Einstein defining creativity and originality as “knowing how to hide your sources.” So ethically, it points out the questions on what really is plagiarism is and what is not. From Einstein’s point of view, you can say plagiarism is only plagiarism if caught, if not, well you’re just a crafty genius.
Now, there are some plagiarism that is just plain obvious and silly. Instances like Shia LaBeouf going out in public and just openly reiterating a 2009 Esquire essay or Southern Illinois University releasing a 139 word definition on what plagiarism is that seemed to copy word for word on a definition on plagiarism that Indiana University released just two years earlier. Situations like these are just too obvious and humorous. You also have those instances where someone just uses someone’s quote while failing to mention the original author at all. But then you have those cases where someone steals someone’s “thoughts”.
There are just infinite amount of stories being published by journalists each day. Within these stories, there are only a finite amount of ideas that can be published. The concept of stealing someone’s idea and that being labeled as plagiarism is a very tricky one. It is difficult in many cases such as Fredrick Colting stealing the entire idea of Catcher in the Rye. That is why I completely agree with the committee’s suggestion on revising The Ledger’s Stylebook definition so that plagiarism may include taking of ideas “in some cases.”
From the report, the statement that made me scratch my head was that “accidental” plagiarism is rare. They go on to explain that in most cases, the writer knows what he is doing. I guess I have this first pessimistic instinct to judge people as not knowing what they are doing. I may watch too much TV because although there is a very big handful of brilliant people on this planet, there are even a bigger amount of dimwits roaming around on the same ground. With coincidences seeming to be a regular thing around this world, it is hard to believe that many of the plagiarism that happen aren’t accidental.
Plagiarism is a tricky concept. You have people like Albert Einstein giving leeway into plagiarism with artists like The Beatles and Vanilla Ice flaunting and basically encouraging it with their fame and money. At the end of the day though, it all comes down to what you believe as a journalist. I personally hold pride in what I do and although I could probably get away stealing a couple lines from a low budget newspaper, I want to pick up an article, read it, and hold my head high knowing that it was mine.