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.


Click to download the book

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.

Queen’s University’s Queens Learning Center: Video tutorial on avoiding 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.



The Sacramento Bee: Rep. Ami Bera apologizes for an opinion piece he submitted to The Bee that incorporated “widely used and disseminated statements.” Buzzfeed first noticed the similarities between the Democrat’s piece and business groups’ talking points on trade.

The New York Times: The millennial-focused online new site Mic fires its news director after Gawker reveals 20 instances of plagiarism under his byline. Jared Keller lifted from publications including The Atlantic and Vox.

Pioneer Press: A Minnesota college president defends her work after being accused of plagiarism in her doctoral dissertation.

Dave Seminara’s Blog: An Oregon-based journalist finds that the Daily Mail in Britain ripped off much of a story the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago wrote about a world traveler. Judging by the update at the bottom of the column and the links to the Daily Mail, the British tabloid appears to have put the story down the memory hole.

New York magazine: Have you ever suffered from kleptomnesia? That’s a psychologist’s term for ”borrowing someone else’s idea without realizing you’ve done so.” This could be a psychological explanation for accidental plagiarism, according to New York magazine.

Al Jazeera America: The taboo around plagiarism seems to be diminishing, Curtis Brown writes. So why not use the market to reward people with ideas worth sharing and put an end to phony moral panic?

Idaho Reports: A high school student in Boise plagiarizes a local columnist’s editorial — with the columnist’s permission. Harmony Soto questions whether the new state superintendent, whose campaign website used material stolen from her opponent, is a worthy choice. Soto writes in a editor’s note: “To our state leadership: Remember, the students of Idaho do pay attention to the examples you’re setting.”

Las Vegas Review-Journal: Researchers from Brookings Mountain West say the agency that oversees higher education in Nevada plagiarized their request to draft a bill creating a grant program in STEM studies. The state agency’s chancellor says in the story and a separate interview with KNPR that the issue was one of poor communication, rather than plagiarism.

Columbia Journalism Review: Examining the controversy surrounding accusations of plagiarism against Fareed Zakaria, CJR’s David Uberti writes that journalism organizations have trouble agreeing on what plagiarism is and how it should be punished. ACES president Teresa Schmedding is quoted in the story.

The Telegraph: The director of a prominent French journalism school is found to have copied the work of other French writers in columns she wrote for the Huffington Post. The director, Agnès Chauveau, has been suspended.

Poynter: Should college journalists who plagiarize or fabricate be held to a different standard from their professional peers? Poynter looks at college newspapers’ decisions on whether to publicly identify students who commit serious ethical breaches.

Minnesota Public Radio: Some foreign students attending college in the U.S. don’t understand what plagiarism is, or how being caught can affect their educational careers. ”What we might call cheating, they might call it sharing,” a college official says.

ABC: The Army War College revokes the degree it awarded to Sen. John Walsh of Montana, who the New York Times earlier revealed had plagiarized parts of a paper submitted in 2007 as an Army colonel. Walsh is far from the only politician facing a plagiarism controversy.

Tallahassee Democrat: The paper’s editor tells readers that Natalie Pierre, the Democrat’s Florida State sports reporter, has resigned. The newspaper found that “pieces – at least — of [a] story were plagiarized” from a freelance writer’s work. Pierre linked to an apology on her Facebook and Twitter pages, but she appears to have removed it from her website.

Poynter: To help us separate frivolous charges of plagiarism from real ones, Poynter presents four questions we should ask. The article also offers a flowchart to further refine the questions and describes broad categories of plagiarism.

Politico: I-D, a fashion website, removes a post that was clearly plagiarized from a New York magazine appreciation of Lauren Bacall, who died Tuesday. The I-D writer, Jack Borkett, is quickly fired.

The Washington Post: Sen. John Walsh, the Montana Democrat who was found to have plagiarized research at the Army War College, ends his re-election campaign.

The New York Times: Public Editor Margaret Sullivan takes a Times story to task for amplifying rather than analyzing a plagiarism claim some have described as spurious.

Nieman Journalism Lab: A roundup of reaction to two plagiarism stories in the news: one at Buzzfeed and one at the New York Times.

The New York Times: A story in the Art and Design section has an editor’s note attached after FishbowlNY pointed out the similarity between its lede and a Wikipedia entry on painter Piero di Cosimo. Public Editor Margaret Sullivan also wrote about the problem with Vogel’s story.

iMediaEthics: Here’s a creative excuse: Our newspaper is an anthology! A community paper claimed just that when UT San Diego, off a reader tip, caught several instances of plagiarism.

Weekly Standard: Craig Shirley, author of two books on Ronald Reagan, says a new biography of the Gipper by Rick Perlstein plagiarizes passages from his book, “Reagan’s Revolution.” Shirley says the book used both his prose and his ideas without attribution.

Buzzfeed: After the discovery of 41 instances of plagiarism, Buzzfeed has fired Benny Johnson. Buzzfeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith writes: “Plagiarism, much less copying unchecked facts from Wikipedia or other sources, is an act of disrespect to the reader. We are deeply embarrassed and sorry to have misled you. Benny’s editors … bear real responsibility.” The apology links to every tainted story, each of which now has an editor’s note appended.

Politico: As more accusations of plagiarism are leveled against Benny Johnson, Buzzfeed has said it is investigating the editor’s work.

Boston Globe: In yet another case of unattributed comments in a graduation speech, the superintendent of schools in Newton, Mass., is docked a week’s pay. He had passed off comments by Gov. Deval Patrick as his own.

Gawker: Benny Johnson, an editor for Buzzfeed is accused of lifting unattributed material from, of all places, Yahoo Answers. In the article, Buzzfeed’s editor-in-chief, Ben Smith, defends Johnson’s work, calling him “one of the web’s deeply original writers.”

Slate: The All England Club kept selling its Wimbledon yearbook even after discovering that it was rife with plagiarism. The Telegraph reports that the writer, Neil Harman of the Times of London, has resigned from his post as co-president of the International Tennis Writers Association.

The Washington Post: The author of one of the papers ripped off by Sen. John Walsh says that although he was “not outraged” — and was actually “mildly flattered” — by the unattributed use of his work, those who plagiarize must be held accountable.

The New York Times: Sen. John Walsh, D-Mont., appears to have plagiarized much of the material for his 2007 master’s thesis — a “strategy research project” – from the U.S. Army War College. The senator, a veteran of the war in Iraq, has said he was being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder at the time he was writing the paper.
Related: The Missoulian, using a plagiarism detector, finds a 79 percent similarity index in Walsh’s paper, compared with his source material.

iMedia Ethics: The Deseret News, a Utah paper owned by the LDS church, has invested in plagiarism-detecting software. The News has been burned by plagiarism as recently as last year.

The Sun Chronicle: Yet another graduation speech — this time from a school superintendent in Mansfield, Mass. — is found to have unattributed statements. Five passages were found to bear strong similarities to those of a speech given a few weeks earlier at the University of Texas. A Sun Chronicle columnist also weighs in.

Jim Romenesko: A Sacramento TV reporter says WCBS in New York stole his story about a California man capturing video of a lightning strike just feet away. Romenesko has links to both stories.

The Daily Beast: A Christian publishing house has indefinitely delayed the release of a book by Seattle pastor Mark Driscoll, whom the publisher once defended against plagiarism accusations. ACES’ treasurer, Neil Holdway, is quoted in the story.

Hays Daily News: An Emporia State University professor writes about a Chinese student asking for help in plagiarizing her master’s thesis and how that reflects Chinese educational culture and policy.

The New Republic: Christopher Ketcham writes that Harper’s spiked a piece on Camden N.J., by Pulitzer Prize winner Chris Hedges after a fact-checker found material plagiarized from the Philadelphia Inquirer. The article goes on to claim that this was not Hedges’ first offense.

Korea Herald: The man nominated to be South Korea’s education minister, a university professor, is accused of plagiarizing a student’s thesis.

WITF: A high school in Pennsylvania will run all its major speeches through plagiarism-detecting software. The school’s principal was suspended after passing off David Foster Wallace’s words as his own at a graduation speech.

The Guardian: Daily Mail Australia is seeking to turn the tables on News Corp Australia, which recently accused Daily Mail of plagiarism. The Guardian had previously suggested News Corp would have a difficult time winning in court.

Lancaster Online and KDVR: Two high school principals, one in Pennsylvania and one in Colorado, have been caught plagiarizing graduation speeches. One swiped from David Foster Wallace, and the other used Sheryl Sandberg’s words.

The Guardian: News Corp Australia claims the online publication Daily Mail Australia has been stealing its stories.

Religion News Service: Not even church pastors are immune to plagiarism.

Washington Post: Reuters says it stands by reporting by Marie-Louise Gumuchian, whom CNN fired recently for plagiarism. Reuters, where Gumuchian once worked, reviewed its archive of her stories and found no signs of plagiarism.

Kennebec Journal: Maine’s governor stops payments to a consultant who submitted a plagiarized report on welfare policy. The consultant says, “We are disappointed in our own efforts.”

Rolling Stone: A lawyer representing a late member of the rock band Spirit claims Led Zeppelin plagiarized the opening bars of “Stairway to Heaven.” The article also mentions Zeppelin’s history of delayed or omitted attribution.

Bangor Daily News: An editorial takes to task a consultant to Maine Gov. Paul LePage for plagiarizing a report on welfare policy.

Craig Silverman at CNN news editor accused of plagiarizing in at least 50 articles.

AllGov: Congressional candidate admits report released by staff was plagiarized. Campaign site accused of plagiarizing from other candidates.

iMediaEthics: Australian reporter resigns after media find instances of plagiarism.

Washington Post: Manuel Roig-Franzia, the Post reporter who first alerted his newsroom to Jayson Blair’s plagiarism, writes that the response from his editors was initially unenthusiastic — until his findings landed on Executive Editor Leonard Downie’s desk.

KUNM: The new director of the public radio station at the University of New Mexico discusses her response to the recently exposed plagiarism by one of her reporters. She cites changes, including training for all her reporters, and describes what she would have done differently.

Fox News: A Fox analysis shows the words of Sen. Rand Paul are a frequent — and often uncredited — source for material for Republican candidates. Related: A North Carolina candidate apparently preferred Rep. Phil Gingrey, and a Pennsylvania candidate lifts from an industry report.

Santa Fe Reporter: The Corporation for Public Broadcasting says a New Mexico radio station should have told its listeners about instances of plagiarism. A reporter has admitted making “a mistake” and said she has been disciplined.

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.
• 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.




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