The Cost of Plagiarism

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Never plagiarize. This is a rule we hear about in any writing format, no matter what the class is. Professors warn us to never use Wikipedia as a source. They caution us to always use attribution whenever there is doubt. The last thing you would think that a journalist of any measure would do is to plagiarize.

According to an article on, prize-winning journalist Johann Hari did.

He attributes this error in judgement to a lack of ethics training. More like common sense training. His list of journalistic errors in judgement includes taking 545 words directly from someone else's work, elaborating quotes, and editing other journalist's Wikipedia pages to include unflattering comments about them.

He has returned the Orwell Prize he won in 2008 and is in the midst of a four month suspension. He is currently undergoing journalism training and it is expected he will resume his position after the four months is over.

Is this punishment enough to fit the crime? You have to think that his actions will affect the way readers view The Independent. When a writer does something that brings their credibility into question, they will lost their effectiveness in connecting with the audience. Readers and critics will not be so fast to forgive this lapse in judgement.

There is a long history of journalist scandals, and most of the plagiarism cases end up with either a resignation by the journalist or their employment being terminated. How will it affect The Independent if they choose to brush this issue aside and proceed as if it never happened?

What message will that send to readers of newspapers everywhere? The market for newspapers is already on the decline; it is unlikely that it can withstand a major blow. Something as simple as this could be a fatal blow for newspapers everywhere.

What do you think should happen to Johann?

Image from Creative Commons.


What’s The Value of Good Journalism?

If newspapers are to survive, a keen look at what their value is will be required. Other media outlets – radio, TV, and especially the internet – have stolen the focus from papers. This has caused the media world to cannibalize itself by offering free online media. With such an option, what reasons do patrons have to purchase physical newspapers?

Ben Fenton of reports on such a question. More importantly, he reports on one media icon, Sir Martin Sorrell’s, suggestions.

Sir Sorrell, CEO of WWP Group, strongly believes that newspapers must adapt their strategies to the common era. Sir Sorrell spoke at the Royal Television Society conference in Cambridge and mentions three things the newspaper industries around the globe must do to remain pertinent:
• Find a way to put paid-for content on the internet
• Consolidate more titles
• Most importantly, find some form of subsidy for “preserving good journalism.”

These are very interesting idea. Though Sir Sorrell is surely not the first to have such ideas, a prominent figure presenting them at such an event could have a large impact on the industry.

I find particularly interesting the idea of subsidizing “good journalism.” With free media ever-present at the readers’ fingertips via mobile devices and home computers, will we the readers soon be getting what we’re paying for?

It is a scary thought. With no one paying journalists, they cannot continue working and writing quality stories. What checks and balances does our modern society have to preserve good journalism in the future?

Image compliments of


Expansion of Citizen Sources

An Associated Press story by Brett Zongker reports on the $4.1 million grant to the American Public Media awarded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to expand its network of “citizen sources”. This expansion would help citizen sources to provide more direct news coverage to local media outlets throughout the county.

In our expansive world of media coverage, accurate coverage of breaking news can be hard to find. This is where citizen sources come into play. While they are not paid for their contributions, citizen sources can have a huge impact on story coverage. Citizen sources may provide tips on breaking news to reporters, or in some cases may even write a story which journalist will seek permission to publish.

Zongker interviewed Joaquin Alvarado, vice president of digital innovation for American Public Media. Alvarado had the following to say regarding citizen sources:

“In some cases, Public Insight drives very forward-facing reporting or special feature or interactive magazines.”

This is the exact purpose of the grant. The goal is to add 100,000 more individuals to the citizen sources network to better help capture the collective intelligence of society.

Not only this, but the grant will also be used to expand upon mobile news applications to process information from sources more quickly.

The American Public Media is focused on recruiting citizen sources from all backgrounds to add a more diverse field of sources.


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