Fighting plagiarism and fabrication

A battery of journalism professionals and academics representing a host of major organizations in late 2012 and early 2013 conducted research aimed at producing practical recommendations for combating and dealing with plagiarism and fabrication. Their conclusions were presented at the National Summit on Plagiarism and Fabrication, part of the 2013 ACES conference in St. Louis.

The group was recruited by Teresa Schmedding, the ACES president, and was headed by William G. Connolly, a retired senior editor of the New York Times. It was divided into three committees, each studying one aspect of the problem – how to define it, how to prevent it, and how to deal with it when necessary.

Among the organizations represented in the effort are the Associated Press Media Editors, the Society of Professional Journalists, the Online News Association, the American Society of News Editors, the Canadian Association of Journalists, the Radio-Television Digital News Association, the Local Independent Online News Publishers and the College Media Advisers.

Download the e-book the group created here.

Download the PowerPoint presentation on the group’s work here.

See our articles from the National Summit on Plagiarism and Fabrication here.



After the summit: The continuing efforts to raise awareness of plagiarism

What Mizzou does: The Columbia Missourian’s policy on plagiarism

The summit in tweets: Feel like you were there in this Storify

Won’t come to the summit? A call to the serial plagiarist who got $20,000 to speak about what he did

Catch it: Bill Connolly’s tips for spotting fabrication

The blog that started it all: Craig Silverman’s “Summer of Sin” post that got the summit going



Advice on attribution, from the two-part series by Poynter’s Ellyn Angelotti, c/o Steve Buttry’s blog.

Princeton University’s examples of plagiarism, from the Academic Integrity section of its website.

Duke University’s guidance on avoiding plagiarism (with video).

The Writing Center at Michigan State University: Basic guidance on plagiarism.

Documentary on Jayson Blair, “A Fragile Trust”: As the film website says: “A FRAGILE TRUST tells the shocking story of Jayson Blair, the most infamous serial plagiarist of our time, and how he unleashed the massive scandal that rocked the New York Times and the entire world of journalism.  In 2003 Blair was caught plagiarizing the work of other reporters and supplementing his own reporting with fabricated details in dozens of different stories published in the Times. The ensuing media frenzy left a major blemish on the history of the ‘Old Grey Lady’, which just a year earlier won a record 7 Pulitzer prizes for its coverage of 9/11. It was a spectacular fall for both Blair and the paper. … Through the course of the film, we follow Blair as he slowly unravels in the face of mounting pressures and distractions. Starting with his ‘reporting’ of the plagiarized article that ultimately lead to his undoing, we trace the rise and fall of this fascinating young reporter as he clings to his career at the Times even as he is losing his mind.” The website includes a Resources page.



KUNM: The public radio station hit by allegations of plagiarism says it has re-examined its ethical practices with help from the faculty of the University of New Mexico but offers few details on its investigation or any changes.

Buzzfeed: A U.S. Senate candidate from New Mexico is caught apparently lifting parts of his campaign website from the website of Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan.

Santa Fe Reporter: A former KUNM reporter says an ex-colleague’s plagiarism has gone uncorrected and unpunished at the University of New Mexico’s public radio station.

Victoria Advocate: Macarena Hernandez remembers having a story ripped off by Jayson Blair and writes about the lessons she hopes her students will learn from Blair’s plagiarism.

ABC: A media watchdog in Australia catches a reporter at the Sydney-based Daily Telegraph lifting quotes from a 2-year-old story in a different publication. The reporter later resigned (paywall) after more allegations of fabrication.

Jakarta Post: “Is there legitimate textual borrowing?” — commentary on plagiarism in Malaysian academia.

Jakarta Post: “Plagiarism rampant in Indonesian online media,” with someone calling for journalism organizations to call the media on it. Story.

The Wire: “Chicago High Schooler Disappointed by State Senator Who Plagiarized His Whale Article,” with a recap of the allegations that the Huffington Post also covered. Opinion post saying the University of Sierra Leone should impose strict plagiarism guidelines.

Scientific American: “How Data Mining Uncovered Rampant Scientific Plagiarism and Fraud”

the battalion online: Article on Texas A&M’s Aggie Honor System Office and how it has an average of 200 cases per semester to review. “As defined by the AHSO, academic ‘misconduct in research or scholarship is the fabrication, falsification or plagiarism in proposing, performing, reviewing or reporting research.’”

vocativ: “Germany’s Plagiarism Police Are Taking Down Politicians and Professors” — recap of how once-anonymous researchers found plagiarism in the German defense minister’s doctoral thesis, which led to his resignation, and how they’ve continued such investigations since.

Royal Purple News: Plagiarism has declined at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater since a plagiarism-checking program was implemented, article reports.

Yale Daily News: “Plagiarism attitudes common across cultures” — article on study showing intolerance of copying is found in young children in different cultures.

Catholic Online: “Mother who wrote apology to aborted baby accused of plagiarism.” Woman admits lifting a few sentences from a 2008 letter. “Yet, the question remains, was her plagiarism of a few lines for a personal letter to Baby Luke really worthy of a full-scale assault on a traumatized woman without training as a journalist?” this opinion piece asks.

Forbes, Larry Husten blog“Leading European Cardiologist Accused of Plagiarism”

iMediaEthics: Quebec student newspaper examining reporter’s work after plagiarism incident. Post.

RIA Novosti: Russia’s children ombudsman accused again of plagiarism in disseration, and background on other Russian officials similarly accused. Story.

The World Post, part of the Huffington Post: Madagascar president accused of lifting parts of French President Sarkozy’s speech for his inaugural address. Post.

Xinhua: Scholars demand cleanup amid rampant plagiarism accusations in China’s academic circles. Story.

The Express Tribune: Former leader of Pakistan higher education watchdog group found guilty of plagiarizing EU report. “Severe plagiarism” is defined as 20 percent of the work unfairly copied. Story.

The Editor’s Desk, blog by former ACES board member Andy Bechtel: Guest post on how editors can stop plagiarism and fabrication.

Rhode Island College: University of Notre Dame professor on expelling students or educating them after plagiarism. Post. A 1964 high school newspaper on racial inequality — and admitting plagiarism. Post.

Saudi Gazette: “Plagiarism is unacceptable.” Opinion.

The Globe and Mail: Q&A with maker of documentary, “A Fragile Trust,” about Jayson Blair. The Los Angeles Times also writes about the documentary.

Scientific American “Doing Good Science” blog: “How plagiarism hurts knowledge building.” Part 4 of a series.

LA Times: Romance novelist Janet Dailey overcame plagiarism scandal. Obituary.

Shia LaBeouf accused of plagiarism in his short film “Howard Cantour”:
• ET: LaBeouf addresses the accusations, saying he didn’t follow attribution protocol. Story.
• Entertainment Weekly: LaBeouf could face legal action over plagiarism. Story.
• Publishers Weekly: A summary of the LaBeouf accusations and his “plagiarized” apology tweets.
• LaBeouf hires skywriter to apologize again. Brief.

Christian radio host Janet Mefferd vs. Seattle pastor Mark Driscoll: Mefferd accused Driscoll on the air Nov. 21, 2013, of plagiarism in his new book, examples were cited on her show’s website and elsewhere, then Mefferd apologized for the allegations Dec. 4 and removed them all from the show website. On Dec. 9 Driscoll’s Mars Hill Church issued a statement on “citation errors” in an older Driscoll book, blaming a research assistant. Allegations of plagiarism in other Driscoll works have followed.
• Religion News Service: Mefferd in heated interview accuses Driscoll of 14 pages of plagiarism in his book. Column on the radio interview.
• RNS’s Jonathan Merritt blog: A summary of the allegations and controversy, with examples illustrated, and updated with news of Mefferd’s retraction.
• Orlando Sentinel’s The Religion World blog: Another summary of the controversy.
• Right Wing Watch: Summary of the controversy with Mefferd’s apology and other commentary noted, such as, “Is journalism no longer considered a legitimate Christian calling?”
• Christianity Today: Another summary of the controversy with notes of past plagiarism accusations and consequences in the Christian community.
• RNS’s Jonathan Merritt and Warren Throckmorton at ”Patheos”: Mars Hill Church issues statement on “citation errors” in a 2009 Driscoll book and blames a research assistant: “We have discovered that during the editing process, content from other published sources were mistaken for research notes.” Full recap.
• Slate: “The Evangelical Celebrity Machine”: A full recap with Mefferd’s first comments since her on-air apology.
• Christianity Today: Tyndale House Publishers concludes Driscoll did not plagiarize in his latest book, it says; Driscoll apologizes for plagiarism in a study guide. Full story.
• USC Annenberg’s RD Magazine: “Will Christian pubishers stand behind Mars Hill’s sketchy legacy?” With discussion on commonly borrowed material. Article.
• Warren Throckmorton on Mark Driscoll self-plagiarizing.
• Throckmorton summarizes “citation problems” in Mark and Grace Driscoll’s book “Real Marriage.”
• Throckmorton on a publisher adding citations to the online version of “Real Marriage” in response to plagiarism allegations.

Poynter: Oakland editor apologizes to Washington Examiner for material his paper lifted. Full story.

AFP: Russian court convicts anti-Kremlin magazine of slander for accusing two judges of plagiarism. Full story.

Associated Press: IOC drops plagiarism probe into South Korean member. Brief. An April 2012 Chicago Tribune article details the allegations against Dae Sung Moon, which cost him a political seat, as well as against Pal Schmitt, who was forced to resign as president of Hungary after a university declared plagiarism in his doctoral thesis.

The Moscow Times: Kremlin’s new anti-corruption chief accused of plagiarism. Story.

WBUR, Boston’s NPR station: Is it OK for a writer to self-plagiarize? Advice blog post.

News & Star (UK): 24 University of Cumbria students caught cheating via plagiarism, with a sliding scale of punishment. Full story.

The Guardian: Damien Hirst accused of plagiarism again with GQ cover of Rihanna as Medusa. Blog post.

The Malaysian Insider: “Plagiarism is a sin” — commentary on a hot Malaysian case, with excerpts of Harvard University’s policy.

Bloomberg: Georgetown law professor accused of plagiarizing Wikipedia. Full story.

The Guardian: “Rand Paul and Lee Terry plagiarized. But the real concern is how the repetition of talking points manipulates public opinion” (with mention of the Iranian president’s plagiarism and other cases among politicians). Full column.

CBS News, “Plagiarism: Stopping Word Thieves”: A writer steals the bulk of his novel’s words from various sources, an interview with Jayson Blair, catching plagiarism in students’ papers, and more. Story and video.

St. Louis Public Radio: Journalism and the Public Trust: The Recurring Role of Jayson Blair. “One of the things that I really wanted to do in the film is illuminate the fact that this is not a standard case of plagiarism and fabrication,” documentary filmmaker says. Full story and video.

University Daily Kansan apologizes for fabrication in opinion column. Full story.

Chronicle of Higher Education: ”Overworked” Kean U. administrator neglects attribution in portion of report, resigns. Full story. Ex-Kent St. Ph.D. candidate’s lawsuit: No such thing as plagiarism in a first draft. Full story.

Rand Paul plagiarism allegations
• Stephen Colbert mocks Rand Paul lifting “Gattaca” movie lines from Wikipedia. Story and clip.
• NPR: Was Rand Paul’s plagiarism dishonest or a breach of good form? Full story.
• RT: Washington Times ends Rand Paul’s column over plagiarism allegations. Full story.
• Politico: Rand Paul thoroughly citing sources now, including Popeye. Story.
• The Hill: Why Rand Paul’s Plagiarism Matters – an opinion.

New York Times: Plagiarism lines blur for students in the digital age. Full story.

More links, particularly from 2012, a horrible year for plagiarism, here.