Magazine article Editor & Publisher

An Apology for Plagiarism

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

An Apology for Plagiarism

Article excerpt

LANSING (MICH.) STATE Journal editor Zack Binkley publicly apologized for lifting a copyrighted, four-page special section from the student-run State News of Michigan State University.

In a correction and in a longer editorial page column, Binkley blamed the massive plagiarism on a series of "unintentional" mistakes.

"I'm really convinced it was inadvertent," Binkley said in a telephone interview. "It doesn't absolve us of the fact that we used their material."

The apology came 10 days after the State Journal April 8 ran a "special report'' entitled "Your guide to the candidates" that was an abbreviated -- but word-for-word -- copy of a four-page special section published the day before by the State News.

The State News special section disclosed for the first time the confidential list of candidates under consideration for MSU president.

After somehow obtaining the closely held list, the team of 21 student reporters researched and reported on the current position of the candidates, their ages, education and career backgrounds and disclosed how each came to be nominated.

The State Journal special report eliminated the short biographical profiles but reprinted all the other information -- including a spelling error, odd word usage and even the exact order of an unalphabetized list of candidates who declined nomination.

For example, both newspapers used this exact wording -- including a runon sentence and unusual wording -- in the profile of candidate Philip E. Austin: "Nominated by: Heldrick & Struggles; he has been listed as having accepted his nomination, but when asked for comment, unequivocally declined the nomination. Austin said he did not wish to be considered and although he said he was contacted by the research firm, he said he told the firm he was not interested."

Both newspapers -- quoting Austin as "unequivocally" declining the nomination -- nevertheless did not include him in a list of "candidates who declined nomination."

That list, incidentally, unaccountably begins with Barbara Jordan and ends with Richard N. Aslin. The State Journal list appears in the same order.

Other State News errors were repeated in the State Journal account.

State News editor in chief Bill Frischling said that when he first saw the State Journal plagiarism, "without exaggeration, my jaw fell on the floor. We weren't even given the respect of a credit. They didn't ask us for permission -- and it came out as their work."

Even worse, Frischling said, the student paper had lent the State Journal several photographs of candidates. …

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