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Archive for the ‘plagiarism’ Category

I have said multiple times here that attribution is the difference between plagiarism and research.

I also have said many times that linking is a matter of journalism ethics and that if journalists were expected to link to their digital sources, editors would prevent plagiarism more effectively and detect it more quickly.

Fareed Zakaria apparently did more research than attribution in some of his work for Time, CNN and the Washington Post. And his failure to link to sources — and his newsrooms’ failure to demand links — has damaged his credibility as a journalist, however this latest accusation plays out.

The media watchdogs who caught Buzzfeed editor Benny Johnson plagiarizing, known only as @blippoblappo and @crushingbort, have documented a dozen cases of apparent plagiarism by Zakaria. All of the incidents they cite occurred prior to the 2012 incident when Zakaria was suspended for plagiarizing the work of the New Yorker’s Jill LePore.

His employers then said they reviewed his previous work, satisfying themselves that the theft was, in the words of Time’s official statement, “an isolated incident.” On their Our Bad Media blog, the watchdogs say that they needed only “less than an hour and a few Google searches” to find a dozen examples of Zakaria using verbatim passages or lightly rewritten passages from other news sources. So they rightly question how rigorously Zakaria’s employers reviewed his work, a question Craig Silverman raised in 2012. (more…)

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Ethics codes should guide journalists in the world where we live and work, not the world where we wish we worked.

At a discussion at the Excellence in Journalism conference last August, several members of the Society of Professional Journalists Ethics Committee indicated they thought the SPJ Code of Ethics just needed “tweaking,” if it needed anything.

Here’s a surprise: They decided just to tweak it.

The code needs an overhaul and it got a touch-up.

Journalism is changing and journalists make ethical decisions in unfamiliar situations. Journalism ethics codes need to provide helpful guidance for journalists. The SPJ Code of Ethics, last revised in 1996, is perhaps the most-cited code and for many years was the most helpful. Now it’s terribly outdated and needs to reflect the world where journalists work.

The first draft at an update feels more like an effort to resist change than an effort to guide journalists in a time of change. (more…)

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This is my keynote address for the Digital Journalism Ethics Symposium Friday at the University of Colorado. Slides are at the end, though I’ve inserted some of the images in the text below. I ad-libbed occasionally, so this was not my exact address, but the prepared text. This is most of what I said. April Nowicki covered my speech and Aimee Heckel Storified some of the tweets from my talk.

Journalists who wish life were simple like to say that ethical standards should not change over time. They seem to want ethics to be a rock we can cling to in difficult times. Our business is changing and the job market is changing and expectations of journalists and the public are changing. Can’t we at least anchor ourselves to these timeless ethical principles? Well, yes, but no.

My view is that we uphold these timeless values of journalism ethics only by updating and upgrading them. Technology and changing markets present new situations where journalists face ethical choices, and we need to update our advice to apply to those tools and circumstances. At the same time, some unethical practices have undermined our cherished principles and we need to strengthen our guidance for journalists if we want to uphold our values. And we cannot let loyalty to long-held principles keep us from following the wise voices calling on us to do better.

Our sense of what is right and wrong changes in other aspects of life. Why would we expect journalism to be insulated from how life changes? (more…)

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Someone should compile detailed ethical guidance for journalists in the difficult decisions we face in doing our jobs today.

The journalism conversation about ethics has been more robust this year than at any time I remember in my career, and I’ve been fortunate to be involved in much of it. But I think we need still more.

Two notable collaborations have re-examined the most important statements of journalism ethics:

(more…)

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Ellyn Angelotti photo linked from Twitter

Update: I’ve added a 2011 Dan Gillmor piece on linking at the end of this post. 

Journalists interested in attribution, plagiarism and journalism ethics should read Ellyn Angelotti‘s two-part series about attribution.

Part 1 discusses plagiarism, particularly why journalists should attribute when they use content from press releases:

When deciding whether to publish information that comes via an organization’s official release, it’s important to consider the context of the source. The release could reflect a skewed perspective — or, worse, the information may not be accurate. So by publishing information in a release verbatim, you potentially run afoul of the important ethical value of acting independently and holding those who are powerful accountable.

Additionally, disseminating information published in official releases without additional reporting may not allow for diversity of voices in the conversation, especially on social media. When people recirculate the same information, they contribute to the echo chamber of the existing conversation online, instead of adding new knowledge.

(more…)

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I will be presenting a webinar on attribution and avoiding plagiarism several times in October for Digital First Media colleagues.

If you haven’t already taken the plagiarism quiz, please do so. I encourage journalists taking the webinar to read the ebook Telling the Truth and Nothing But as well as these blog posts:

I lifted (but attributed) most of this post on plagiarism

You can quote me on that: Advice on attribution for journalists

Our cheating culture: Plagiarism and fabrication are unacceptable in journalism

4 reasons why linking is good journalism; 2 reasons why linking is good business

Plagiarism and Fabrication Summit: Journalists need to use links to show our work

Journalism’s Summer of Sin marked by plagiarism, fabrication, obfuscation by Craig Silverman

How to handle plagiarism and fabrication allegations by Craig Silverman and Kelly McBride

Journalism has an originality problem, not a plagiarism problem by Kelly McBride

ACES moves forward with effort to fight plagiarism by Gerri Berendzen

Here are the slides for the webinar:

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This continues a series on advice for new top editors in Digital First Media newsrooms.

The most unpleasant task of my editing career has been firing staff members.

Whether you fire someone for performance or misconduct or because you have to reduce the size of the staff, you are disrupting the person’s career and life in ways you and they can’t foresee. You are delivering a blow to the ego as well as to the family finances. It can be devastating to the journalist you fire and gut-wrenching for the editor who makes the decision and delivers the news.

No advice I can deliver changes any of that. So one of the most important pieces of advice I can give is this: If you can’t handle that difficult task, don’t take on a top editing job. It’s a great job that includes a lot of exciting and rewarding work. But it also invariably includes this task, even in good times, and you need to be able to handle it. (more…)

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I’m a keynote speaker at the Journalism, Leadership and Management Conference for student media leaders this weekend at the Greenlee School of Journalism at Iowa State University.

I was asked to talk to the students about leadership and the future. My primary point is that young journalists are already providing important leadership in our profession and they have an extraordinary opportunity and extraordinary examples to shape journalism in their careers.

I don’t have a written version of the address, but my slides are below. I sought advice for these young journalists from some outstanding successful journalists. I shared some of the advice on my slides. In other cases, I drew my advice from things these journalists had posted online (or things they said in interviews). Or I just drew my own lessons for the students from these journalists’ careers.

Here are the responses from the young journalists who sent advice to the students: (more…)

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This continues a series on advice for new top editors in Digital First Media newsrooms.

Journalism ethics should be a topic of frequent discussions in a Digital First newsroom. I’ve already mentioned the importance of stressing and upholding accuracy in your newsroom. The editor needs to make standards clear to the staff. Even if you have a written ethics policy, your newsroom ethics need to be shaped by frequent discussions that the editor leads, joins, stimulates and guides.

I have frequently criticized newsroom social-media policies for being rooted too often in fear and ignorance. Editors who aren’t using social tools much, if any, dictate rules based on their fears that someone on their staff is going to make bad decisions.

Your staff is going to make better decisions in using social media if they’ve discussed with you (or with their direct editors, or, ideally both) how they should use social media: What’s the appropriate place (if any) for opinion in their social media use; how much they should or should not mix personal and professional social media use. You can hear their what-ifs and respond before something becomes a problem. If you’re still learning social media yourself (and we all are), discussing the ethical issues with staff members more experienced in social media use will advance your education. (more…)

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I am participating today in the National Summit to Fight Plagiarism and Fabrication. For the past few months I have been working with an outstanding group of colleagues on an ebook, Telling the Truth and Nothing But, intended to help journalists and newsrooms prevent plagiarism and fabrication.

Before I share my contribution from the book, I must applaud three people in particular who drove this process:

I was pleased to represent the Online News Association and Digital First Media in the project and applaud the others who contributed (who are listed at the back of the book).

The project is summed up well in this passage (which I didn’t write, but wish I had; would the author please identify himself or herself?):

Our hope is that  it’s sufficiently provocative and practical to prompt in every newsroom in every medium a habit of asking a question that’s been grunted by generations of grizzled editors: “Says who?” (more…)

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I am working with representatives of several journalism groups on recommendations to help news organizations prevent plagiarism and fabrications. We’d like to know what policies your newsrooms or organizations have relating to these issues.

We’re interested not just in policies that say what the penalties are for ripping stuff off or making it up, but whether you have policies explaining how journalists should attribute the facts and quotes they use (including linking). We’re interested in any policies related to fact-checking, running stories through plagiarism-checking software or random Google checks.

The presidents of the American Copy Editors Society and the Society of Professional Journalists committed to a plagiarism “summit” next spring, after a summer when offenses were so plentiful that Craig Silverman called it journalism’s “summer of sin.” Several other journalism organizations have joined the discussions: Associated Press Media EditorsOnline News AssociationAmerican Society of News EditorsCanadian Association of JournalistsRadio-Television Digital News AssociationCollege Media AdvisersLocal Independent Online News Publishers and perhaps others (I’ll update the list if I learn of others).

I am representing ONA and Digital First Media in the discussions. I am pleased that we’re focusing not just on plagiarism and fabrication, but on proper attribution. We have divided the work into three topics: defining plagiarism and fabrication, prevention and response. I am in the group focusing on prevention. (more…)

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I have added three updates, marked in bold, since posting this originally.

Aggregation has become a dirty word in much of journalism today.

Bill Keller, former editor of the New York Times, last year wrote: “There’s often a thin line between aggregation and theft.”

Patrick Pexton, Washington Post ombudsman, in an April 20 column called plagiarism “a perpetual danger in aggregated stories.”

Actually, aggregation has a long, proud and ethical history in journalism. If you’re an old-school journalist, don’t think Huffington Post or Drudge when you think about aggregation; think AP. The Associated Press is primarily largely an aggregation service*, except that it its members pay huge fees for the privilege of being aggregated (and for receiving content aggregated from other members).

The New York Times and Washington Post also have long histories of aggregation. In my years at various Midwestern newspapers, we reported big local and regional stories that attracted the attention of the Times, Post and other national news organizations. Facts we had reported first invariably turned up in the Times and Post stories without attribution or with vague attribution such as “local media reports.” I don’t say that critically. When I was a reporter and editor at various Midwestern newspapers, we did the same thing with facts we aggregated from smaller newspapers as we did regional versions of their local stories.

My point isn’t to criticize these traditional newspapers, just to note that aggregation isn’t a new practice just because it’s a fairly new journalism term. It’s one of many areas where journalism practices and standards are evolving, and I believe standards are actually improving in most cases.

After the Washington Post case, Elana Zak asked me and others if journalists needed to develop guidelines for aggregation.

I’m happy to contribute to that conversation with some thoughts about aggregation. I’ll start with discussing what I mean by aggregation (and its cousin or sibling, curation):

(more…)

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