Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

To Attribute Information or Not? the Answer Is Obvious

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

To Attribute Information or Not? the Answer Is Obvious

Article excerpt

Byline: Mike Clark, Times-Union Reader Advocate

Let's examine some basic journalism.

It's elementary, dear Watson (Arthur Conan Doyle), that when you use someone else's material, you attribute it.

So Roy Gulick of Green Cove Springs was shocked to see resolutions in the Annie's Mailbox column on New Year's Day that were not attributed. You may remember the self-improvement tips, each beginning with "Just for Today."

Here is one example from the column: "Just for today I will improve my mind. I will learn something useful. I will read something that requires effort, thought and concentration."

Now compare it to this sentence from a Dale Carnegie book, attributed to Sybil Partridge: "Just for today I will try to strengthen my mind. I will learn something useful. I will not be a mental loafer. I will read something that requires effort, thought and concentration."

Gulick called that plagiarism, which Webster's defines as taking something from another and passing it off as one's own.

In response, Marcy Sugar, one of the two authors of Annie's Mailbox and a longtime editor of the Ann Landers column, said that Landers had used those resolutions for years, as had others. She said the resolutions had been changed quite a bit over the years. Nevertheless, she said she would attribute the source of the resolutions in an Annie's Mailbox column during the week of Feb. 15.

My conclusions: It would have been more useful to let readers know that those resolutions could be found on Page 122 of Dale Carnegie's book, How To Stop Worrying and Start Living. The entire book is full of similar sentiments. For instance, the Annie's Mailbox column did not use all of the resolutions, such as the first and last ones:

No. 1: "Just for today I will be happy. This assumes that what Abraham Lincoln said is true, that 'most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.' Happiness is from within, it is not a matter of externals. …

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