Plagiarism: a serious offense

One of the most important things to remember in journalism (and there is a lot) is to be accountable. As part of the journalism department at Concordia, we are called upon to take an “Ethics in Journalism” course which outlines the many things that you are not allowed to do in our profession. I don’t remember much from the course, but I do remember the teacher stressing that we had to be accountable for our articles and research.

For all of you non-journalism students, the Canadian Association of Journalists stated in their Journalistic Principles, “While news and ideas are there for the taking, the words used to convey them are not (…) Using another’s analysis or interpretation may constitute plagiarism, even if the words are rewritten, unless it is attributed.”

The Quebec Professional Federation of Journalists states “Journalists must never plagiarize. If they use an exclusive piece of information that has just been published or broadcast by another media organization, they must identify the source.”

Being a publication in Quebec, we fall under these rules and must adhere to them.

The reason for this sudden burst of journalistic pride, is we here at The Concordian recently found out that an article in our paper was plagiarized from an article written by MP Dunleavey titled ’10 ways you mindlessly waste money’ on MSN Money (the link is http://moneycentral.msn.com/content/SavingandDebt/P41228.asp). We are shocked to find out that a student would plagiarize an article in one of the school newspapers.

If the recent New York Times scandal has taught us anything, it’s that plagiarizing is stupid and makes you and your publication look stupid. I can understand how some students would get the urge to plagiarize because we are all so busy and it is so easy to just copy and paste some quotes from another article, but this is not a practice to adopt if you want a career in journalism. As seen in the Jayson Blair situation and here, you will eventually get caught and asked not to write for the publication again. You also will get a bad reputation with other publications (because, who would want to hire someone who isn’t going to put in the effort?).

The relationship between a writer and an editor is a sacred one. It is one that is based on trust. A lot of trust, especially since we are a school newspaper. When we get approached by someone who is interested in writing, we have to take their word for it that they are in fact fair and accurate in their reporting (not to mention, have the ability to write). When someone goes ahead and breaks that trust by plagiarizing an entire article, it ruins it for all of the other writers who were honest. We may not take the first year students or students who aren’t in the journalism program.

As Enn Raudsepp, director of the journalism program at Concordia states in his Ethics and Responsibility in Journalism coursepack, “it is generally agreed that the main role of journalists is to serve as the eyes and the ears of the public. If someone starts to abuse this role, then they must be held accountable.” Raudsepp goes on to say that if a journalist acts wrongly, their misdeeds should be exposed.

Likening to the recent scandals of Jayson Blair and Stephen Glass, people know that a publication is not able to keep checking up on their writers. They take for granted that the writer is trustworthy. At The Concordian, it might even be a little worse, as we all are full-time students as well as editors at the paper. I’m not asking for pity or sympathy, believe me, I am more embarrassed than anyone about this travesty. But it must be looked at in perspective. However, needless to say this writer is banned from ever writing for us again and I should hope that the editors from The Link, The Thursday Report and Concordia Fran

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