Review of a series of plagiarism and fabrication cases and other transgressions

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Chapter 9: Stolen Words, Invented Facts … or Worse


Kara Wedekind, “The unethical timeline,” American Journalism Review, August 2005. A review of a series of plagiarism and fabrication cases and other transgressions.

Jack Shafer, “The Romenesko effect: How a one-man Web site is improving journalism,” Slate.

Bob Steele, “Cutting corners,” poynteronline, Aug. 29, 2003. Steele explores the question of why a veteran journalist would cut ethical corners and jeopardize his career.
Michael White, “Survey: Public thinks journalists often guilty of ethical lapses,” The Associated Press, Oct. 16, 1998. (News databases)
Columbia Journalism Review, “After the falls,” May/June 2007. Students in the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism provide updates on seven high-profile cases. (Academic databases)
Norman P. Lewis, Paradigm Disguise: Systemic Influences on Newspaper Plagiarism, 2007.
Norman P. Lewis, “Plagiarism antecedents and situational influences,” Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, 85, 2, Summer 2008, 313–30. (Academic databases)

Roy Peter Clark, “The unoriginal sin,” originally written for the March 1983 issue of Washington Journalism Review (now American Journalism Review). “The unoriginal sin” was posted on poynteronline in July 2000:

Leonard Pitts Jr., “Chris Cecil, plagiarism gets you fired,” The Miami Herald, June 3, 2005.
Edward Wasserman, “What is ‘original’ journalism anyway?”, The Miami Herald, May 30, 2005.
Trudy Lieberman, “Plagiarize, plagiarize, plagiarize … only be sure to always call it research,” Columbia Journalism Review, July/August 1995. (Academic databases)
Edward Wasserman, “Plagiarism and precedence,” Media Ethics Magazine, Fall 2006, 18, 1. The Washington and Lee professor offers a detailed definition of “journalistic plagiarism.”
Siva Vaidhyanathan, “Copyright jungle,” Columbia Journalism Review, September/October 2006. A primer on copyright law. (Academic databases)
John Hersey, “The legend on the license,” The Yale Review, 70, 1980, 1-25. “[T]here is one sacred rule of journalism. The writer must not invent. The legend on the license must read: NONE OF THIS WAS MADE UP.”
Chip Scanlan, “The first peril: fabrication,” poynteronline, Aug. 23, 2002. The Poynter Institute scholar revisits Hersey’s legend on the license.

The Smoking Gun, “A million little lies: Exposing James Frey’s fiction addiction,” Jan. 8, 2006. The debunking of Frey’s supposedly nonfiction memoir, A Million Little Pieces, which had been selected for Oprah Winfrey’s book club and had become a bestseller.

Six Cautionary Examples of Plagiarism and Fabrication
Janet Cooke:
Janet Cooke, “Jimmy’s world: 8-year-old heroin addict lives for a fix,” The Washington Post, Sept. 28, 1980. The article in which Cooke told the story of Jimmy, who proved to be a fabricated character. (News databases)
Bill Green, “The reporter: When she smiled, she dazzled; when she crashed …”, The Washington Post, April 19, 1981. The ombudsman’s detailed report on Cooke’s fabrication. (News databases)
After Jimmy’s World: Tightening Up In Editing (New York: The National News Council, 1981), 16–25.
Stephen Glass:
Buzz Bissinger, “Shattered Glass,” Vanity Fair, September 1998. About the Stephen Glass case.
Lori Robertson, “Shattered Glass at The New Republic,” American Journalism Review, June 1998.
Howard Kurtz, “Stephen Glass waits for prime time to say ‘I lied’ ”, The Washington Post, May 7, 2003. (News databases)
Ann Reilly Dowd, “The Great Pretender: How a writer fooled his readers,” Columbia Journalism Review, July/August 1998. (Academic databases)
Patricia Smith:

Sinéad O’Brien, “Secrets and lies,” American Journalism Review, September 1998.

Patricia Smith, “A note of apology,” The Boston Globe, June 16, 1998. (News databases)
Mike Barnicle:
Sinéad O’Brien, “For Barnicle, one controversy too many,” American Journalism Review, September 1998.
Matthew V. Storin, “Some practical advice from a crisis-buffeted editor,” included in Robert H. Giles, Ed., “Media mistakes of ’98,” a booklet published by the Freedom Forum Media Studies Center.
Jayson Blair:
Times reporter who resigned leaves long trail of deception,” The New York Times, May 11, 2003. The Times’ investigation of Jayson Blair’s reporting.
Jacques Steinberg, “Times reporter resigns after questions on article,” The New York Times, May 2, 2003.About the Jayson Blair case.
Howard Kurtz, “Reporter resigns over copied story,” The Washington Post, May 2, 2003. (LexisNexis Academic)
Jill Rosen, “All about the retrospect,” American Journalism Review, June/July 2003. “Jayson Blair charmed and dazzled the right people on his rapid rise from cocky college student to New York Times national reporter. But he left plenty of clues about the serious problems that lay below the surface.”
Jack Kelley:

Blake Morrison, “Ex-USA Today reporter faked major stories,” USA Today, March 21, 2004. USA Today’s investigation of Jack Kelley.

Bill Hilliard, Bill Kovach and John Seigenthaler, “The problems of Jack Kelley and USA Today, a memorandum to publisher Craig Moon, published in USA Today, April 22, 2004.

Two Cases in Which Journalists Broke the Law
R. Foster Winans:
R. Foster Winans, Trading Secrets. (New York: St Martin’s Press, 1986).
Mike Gallagher:
Bruce W. Sanford, “Chiquita lesson: Libel isn't weapon of choice,” The American Editor, Oct. 15, 1998; updated May 20, 1999.
Nicholas Bender, “Damage report: After the Chiquita story,” Columbia Journalism Review, May/June 2001. (Academic databases)
Setting and Enforcing Standards
Jill Rosen, “We mean business,” American Journalism Review, June/July 2004.

After a series of cases involving fabrication and plagiarism, the nation's newspapers sought to stiffen their defenses against ethical lapses.

Lori Robertson, “Confronting the culture,” American Journalism Review, August 2005.

The culprit behind the recurring clusters of plagiarism and fabrication scandals isn’t just irresponsible youth or a few bad apples or the temptations of the Internet. It may be the newsroom culture itself.

Los Angeles Times Ethics Guidelines, July 13, 2005. Places responsibility on staff members to report ethical violations.
Joyce Gemperlein, “Conclusions from the Editors’ Forum on Newsroom Standards,” American Society of Newspaper Editors, June 26, 2003. Among the conclusions: Create an environment of “speaking out,” one that encourages ethical lapses to be brought to the attention of top editors.
Poynter Institute, “Journalism without scandal,” a series of essays about journalism and its culture.
Point of View: When There Is Unanimity, Ask Questions

A plea for skeptical editing by Reid MacCluggage, retired editor and publisher of The Day in New London, Conn. [may be found under Point-of-view Essays]

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