Friday, June 24, 2005

A plagiarism case with Cit-J implications?

Another plagiarism case has surfaced, this one of a contributor to the Marketplace radio show, investment adviser Gabriel Wisdom, who substantially lifted items from Slate (see Howard Kurtz's story).

Marketplace ended up running this apology:

On June 13, we aired an interview about the money immigrants bring into the US economy and a theory that the money could be strengthening the dollar.

Since then, we've learned that much of the language the freelance contributor used had appeared earlier in a Slate Magazine article written by journalist Daniel Gross.

Also, in our editing we removed the freelance contributor's reference to the researcher who originated the theory, Michael Panzner.

We take this situation very seriously. To ensure that it does not happen again, we are conducting an internal review of how we work with freelance contributors, as well as how we determine the originality of material provided by those contributors.

Most importantly, we apologize to Mr. Gross, to Slate, Mr. Panzner and to our listeners.

Now, the use of freelance contributors is nothing new. But as we turn things into one giant freelance wing-ding, aka "citizen journalism," the comments by Wisdom (how ironic is that name?) have some significance:

"I'm not a journalist," Wisdom said yesterday. "I don't know journalistic standards. I rely on 'Marketplace' for that. I never intended to plagiarize or take someone else's work as my own." The Harvard Business School graduate served as business editor for two San Diego radio stations between 1984 and 1995. (emphasis mine)
Now, we can debate the touching lunacy of someone who was a business "editor" for two radio stations saying "I don't know journalistic standards" (all you print types can stop clucking now). But this is reality that a lot of media outlets rushing headlong into Cit-J have yet to come to grips with (the LA Times wikitorial escapade is an example, though an extreme one): Many of those budding journalists have this notion in the back of their heads that they'll provide the content, but you'll do the "journalism" thing.

We could, once again, start what seems to be a never-ending debate about whether blogs or similar cit-j efforts should be edited, etc. etc. That misses the point. I don't think Wisdom's view is an anomaly. I think many of our potential contributors see it as our job to make sure they don't get crosswise with whatever journalism "standards" are out there, especially if they are going to hitch their wagons to an established mainstream media site. (This, by reasoning, then excludes things like Backfence and Bayosphere, which don't claim to be carrying the big-j torch.) So as MSM dips its collective toes in these waters, understand that your contributors may well expect more from you than just an open forum on which to post. I think the organizations that treat those contributors as partners by standing ready to provide that editorial support and help -- be it direct editing when requested or just vigilant monitoring for trolls and similar defacing -- are the ones that will build solid communities of contributors and comment.

But it won't be cheap.


At 6/30/05, 6:18 PM, Blogger Bill said...

Heck, isn't it lunacy for anyone with an IQ over 75 to think "Don't steal the work of others" is an arcane "journalistic standard"?

Sort of like the Ten Commandments fetishists' opinion that we never would have known that murder is wrong without that document.

At 7/1/05, 10:15 AM, Blogger Doug said...

Unfortunately, there's a lot of disconnect in this world of ours.


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