Plagiarism. It’s the scarlet letter in the world of journalism. As a graduate student at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, it’s an atrocity you’re warned never to commit, both in school and in the “real world.”
So, considering the dire consequences of plagiarism, it’s bemusing to see a fellow graduate student get ripped-off by a “big time” reporter.
Take a look at the opening few graphs of an article on stimulus money and dinner cruises by my colleague, Ryan Craggs:
Certain words strike fear into the hearts of Americans: Osama bin Laden. Anthrax. The Oklahoma City bombing. al-Qaeda. Hijackers. Dinner cruises.
Apparently thatâ€™s what the Department of Homeland Security thinks.
That article was published on Feb. 18. Today, NBC Chicago’s Matt Bartosik dropped a little gem on the same subject:
What does it take to keepÂ America safe? Alert agents, the latest in investigative technology, dinner cruises …
Wait, dinner cruises?
TheÂ Department of Homeland Security reportedly gave about $1 million in federal stimulus money toÂ Entertainment Cruises, LLC.
Sure, a few words are slightly different, but the overall message, delivery and focus is exactly the same. The rest of Bartosik’s article is merely a truncated version of Craggs’ piece, with no sign of any original reporting.
How did this happen? How did this slip past the NBC editors? Bartosik even linked to the original article at one point, and yet nobody caught that he practically lifted the entire piece. Shouldn’t he have linked every word of the article back to Medill?
There’s plenty of talk about the future of journalism, that the industry will die off, etc etc. Well, looks like things have gotten so bad that those of journalism’s present are plagiarizing the industry’s future. Looks like the future’s doing a pretty good job, but I’d be more worried about the present.
UPDATE: Matt Bartosik got in touch with me to give me some information on the piece and correct some of the mistakes I wrote. Here is what Bartosik wrote to me, in full:
Leor,Thank you for this opportunity to respond to your accusations.First, it should be made clear that I am a freelancer with NBC Chicago. I am not an employee, and therefore anything I say is my own opinion and belief. I do not speak on behalf of NBC Chicago.With that in mind, I have to say I was a bit amused (and flattered?) when you called me a “big-time” reporter. I’ve never been to NBC Tower, and only 2 or 3 people there would know who I am. As I have joked with friends, I am low man on the totem pole. In fact, I’m not even technically on the totem pole at all.I’m a “between blogs” blogger who has been freelancing with NBC Chicago a little over a year now. However, I’m still a bit inexperienced when it comes to political topics. The dinner cruise story that I wrote was definitely a political one, and I attempted to write it in a completely neutral manner.This was a mistake. I should have added a more forward and therefore more creative approach to the subject at hand. Then, it wouldn’t have come across as an sterile rehashing of facts.And I have no one to blame for the opening lines but myself. Again, I’ve written hundreds of articles, but this unfortunately was not one of the better ones.It was never my intention to plagiarize or “get away” with anything. As you noted, I did link to the original piece, but those links should have been more prominent. The NBC story has been changed to better reflect the original reporting.If it comes across that I “stole” something, I apologize. That was never my objective.–Matt Bartosik
It would have been nice (not to mention professional) had someone contacted me first. Even if I may be in the wrong, I should have the chance to defend and/or apologize.
My writing for True/Slant has no affiliation with Medill or anyone else: I do not speak for anyone except for me.
I apologize if my actions appear unprofessional, and you are right, you do deserve a chance to defend yourself and/or apologize. Please email me at:
leorgalil (at) gmail (dot) com
Perhaps I’m merely misinformed by the blogosphere in general, but usually when these types of events crop up, a blogger out there usually presents their case. I felt that I was in the right as a blogger with this kind of access to put the issue up front, and I’m sorry if I mishandled the situation. Please do email me though, I would like to hear from you.
I teach writing, and this sounds exactly like a typical student response: Sorry, didn’t even realize I was plagiarizing, I had the source in my bibliography see?, here let me fix it, won’t do it again. My response: it’s still an F.
I’m sure by now you’ve spoken with your managing editor about this story.
You danced around it in half-apologies, but I am not one to mince words. You committed plagiarism.
Frankly, your response to Leor’s post, and calling him unprofessional, skirts the issue. I understand that you’re a freelancer. But the rationale for why your story egregiously stole my words is unacceptable.
You barely did more than change a few phrases from my story. To make matters worse, you used quotes I got directly from sources and gave me no credit for doing the reporting. Thatâ€™s the definition of plagiarism.
If in fact you have written hundreds of articles, then you of all people should know what constitutes plagiarism. And rather than owning up to it, you pass the buck. By saying “if it comes across that I ‘stole’ something, I apologize. That was never my objective,” you make it seem as if the plagiarism here is open to interpretation. It isn’t. The words, ideas and reporting here are mine. It need not “come across” as if you stole my work. You simply did it and have not owned up to your offense.
Iâ€™m not one to wish ill-will, but you deserve to lose your job at NBC, no matter how lowly it is. I would be expelled from school if I pulled bush-league antics like this. No questions asked.
And just so you know, you ripped off a story I got a B on.
Matt Bartosik, congratulations on your first Medill F.
Some dictionary entries from Merriam-Webster:
: to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own : use (another’s production) without crediting the source
: to commit literary theft : present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source
1 : firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values : incorruptibility
2 : an unimpaired condition : soundness
3 : the quality or state of being complete or undivided : completeness
synonyms see honesty
2 a : fairness and straightforwardness of conduct b : adherence to the facts : sincerity
synonyms honesty, honor, integrity, probity mean uprightness of character or action. honesty implies a refusal to lie, steal, or deceive in any way. honor suggests an active or anxious regard for the standards of one’s profession, calling, or position. integrity implies trustworthiness and incorruptibility to a degree that one is incapable of being false to a trust, responsibility, or pledge. probity implies tried and proven honesty or integrity.
Online plagiarism checker – http://plagiarisma.net
Online plagiat finder – http://plagiarisma.net