Plagiarism: The Little, BIG Problem

Hey it's not plagiarism if I took it from my friend, right? Not quite

Hey it’s not plagiarism if I took it from my friend, right? Not quite

We all know that plagiarism is a problem. As journalists, we especially need to know how major of a problem this is. The only thing is, what is it? And more importantly, how do we avoid falling victim of the little traps that are all over journalism, and writing in general. I don’t think it is as hard to figure out as most people complain about.

There are so many cases in which we see people saying that they didn’t realize they were committing plagiarism. I just have to say, how exactly do you not know you’re committing plagiarism. Yes, there are little snags along the way, but if you are looking at someone’s work, reading what they have to say, and taking their work or using their writing without a source, you NEED to know what you are doing. If not, you really need to go back and rethink your writing.

I am highly against the use of “I didn’t know,” as an excuse to get out of plagiarism, and there are some examples where it just simply seems to be inexcusable. For instance, this article truly makes me question how somebody could keep their job through the use of plagiarism. “The Gazette already found three examples of plagiarism “in the past two months alone.” How exactly does that happen? How does a man of prominent position get away with this kind of plagiarism for years? I truly do not understand.

Okay, so enough about my rant. I need to continue my thoughts here, because I could go on for days about that one topic. I believe that the editor is just as responsible as the writer is in dicey situations. An editors job is to pick up on any problems in the writers article, and plagiarism is just one of those problems. The editor MUST be able to pick up if the writer is plagiarizing an article and bring it to the writers attention immediately. If the problem is seen and not fixed, the editor should be, and most times is, responsible along with the writer and can lose a job just as easily.

For instance, editor Jon Flatland, lost his job back in the 90’s after it was discovered he was plagiarizing articles. Tony Bender, publisher of the Ashley Tribune, was not pulling any punches when he was asked about Flatland. “I should have hung (Flatland) from the highest tree,” Bender said. “Naively, I never imagined he would do it again. It appears, given enough rope and a complete lack of conscience, Jon has finally managed to hang himself.” You can’t put it more blandly than that.

All in all, there really is no excuse for committing plagiarism on any article produced. All members involved are responsible for the work done and handed in plagiarism free. It’s sometime true to avoid, but as a writer, you should be able to choose your own words and give credit to anyone who deserves it. If you’re able to do so, you should have no problem avoiding plagiarism.


5 thoughts on “Plagiarism: The Little, BIG Problem

  1. When I write my post on the topic, this strong opinion glues on my mind: come on! There is no excuse for doing that! I talked about how I’m against the excuse “that was unintentional” on my post, too. So I strongly agree with you about this. How come that people didn’t realize they are lifting others’ ideas? And what I missed when writing mine is that I didn’t really see the responsibility of the editors. Of course, all the journalists are responsible for seeking the truth.

  2. I actually agree with both of you. I never even thought about holding the editor at fault as well. Every journalist is always blaming their editor for work-related discrepancies but I guess I never considered plagiarism falling in that category. The more I think about it, the editor should catch the journalist’s plagiarized work immediately. If the problem is not fixed or management is not notified, the editor should then also be held accountable for the journalist’s actions. This would kind of scare me if I was an editor. I would definitely always be on my game when checking my journalists’ work for fear of missing a major incident like plagiarism.

  3. Putting my editor hat on for a bit here …

    It’s really tough to catch plagiarism on deadline. You are checking spelling and grammar and trying to publish the story online as soon as possible, or make a print deadline so the presses can run. On that kind of schedule, it can even be tough to fact check. That’s more part of the basic process at magazines and in book publishing, which have longer lead times.

    Not making an excuse; just explaining. I think the original sin, so to speak, is always with the person who lifted someone else’s material. If others had reason to suspect that may have happened but did nothing, they are at fault, too. I’m not sure how often that happens. Usually high-profile stories seem to come to light when a reader or the person whose work has been lifted complains.

    I would be interested to know how many editors do catch instances of plagiarism. I might ask that on my Twitter and Facebook pages.

    Interesting discussion … eager to hear more thoughts.


  4. I would have to agree with Lori on this one. An editor’s job is mainly to focus on grammar and spelling, on top of making sure the story flows and sounds right. They should not have to be worried about whether or not the writer stole someone else’s work. I would think that it is rare for an editor to catch someone with plagiarism, although it would be interesting to look into.

  5. I agree with Lori as well, while editing, the center of focus should be on making sure the story flows, making sure it intrigues the audience. Along with that, making sure the spelling and punctuation is on point. I know you claim you can’t fully understand how somebody can’t understand how they are plagiarizing, some people don’t realize that taking a few words or even maybe rewording a paragraph that they feel strong about can be plagiarizing. Some plagiarism is pretty obvious, other times it could easily just be rewording a topic you agree with. Not everyone understands the concept of plagiarism, whether its rewording or copying a small paragraph, some people don’t think their doing anything wrong.

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