Yeah, right, a 'witch hunt'
More like a "which" hunt -- as in "Which story can we find by Nada Behziz that doesn't have plagiarized material in it?" At least that's what one comes away with after reading the Bakersfield Californian's review of the now-fired Behziz's work. (reg. required)
Internal probe finds plagiarism, other problems in more than 35 stories written by the ex-staffer, says the headline. That's out of 96 bylined stories she did for the newspaper. The list of corrections goes on for nine pages printed from the Web. It runs the gamut, from material lifted from other publications and wire services without attribution to apparently making up sources and then attributing lifted material to them.
But wait, Johnny, there's more: Misstatments on Behziz's resume about her former jobs (some were internships, though she allegedly listed them as regular positions) and about a supposed degree from San Francisco State University (went here, but never got the degree, the school told Bakersfield reporter Gretchen Wenner).
Behziz has hired a lawyer, and her response to the newspaper's request for comment sounded more like she's auditioning for a White House job: This is a witch hunt. Too bad your news organization is not this vigilant in pursuing true wrongdoers.
No, Ms. Behziz. If what the paper says is true, you are the true wrongdoer, having wronged every reader who ever looked at one of your stories. And since you wrote about health -- a truly life-and-death matter for some who might have made decisions based on your words -- you effectively pointed a loaded verbal gun at every one of those readers.
The only "witch" hunt here is figuring out which job flipping burgers you're even qualified to get now. Maybe serving up Whoppers?
On second thought, let's keep you away from the grill just to keep from tempting you to try to pass off that soyburger as the real thing.
(Quick editing notes: Bakersfield has put together a nice package, complete with a nice graphic showing one of the stories and the original from which material supposedly was lifted, the main story, the corrections list, Executive Editor Mike Jenner's column in which he promises more thorough background checks on new hires and a system of auditing accuracy, and links to previous stories, including one detailing how the paper blew it when a doctor complained months earlier about possible plagiarism.
Two jarring errors in the first few grafs do mar it a bit for a copy editor: "The piece centered around a supposed local deaf man's experience with cochlear implants ..." [read: centered on. Things center on or revolve around]
"Nearly 200 of the 850 words in Behiziz's story -- including the first sentence -- is plagiarized ..." [make that "are' plagiarized. Those words really aren't acting as a unit; they can be counted].
It also concerns me that Behziz's response was left until the last three grafs of the story. I've just always been of the school that in fairness you get the other side's response up high. Putting it that low after two pages of piling on, comes across, I fear, as merely tossing it off. The public senses such things.
But overall, a nice piece of work.)