Keep Standards High

Why should we care about Maureen Dowd’s plagiarized paragraph in Sunday’s New York Times? 

As we all know, journalism is rapidly changing.  Newspapers across the country struggle to survive and far too many fold.  The instant access to information on the Internet is both wonderful and scary.  It’s great to get news about a situation as it is happening and often in the form of first-hand accounts.  In this rush to be first, there are often many inaccuracies reported and the editing process seems to be all but obsolete. 

Perhaps, Dowd really did inadvertently use the paragraph from Josh Marshall’s blog.  Failure to attribute properly is plagiarism, however.  A quick check using Google would have caught this “mistake” and it’s hard to understand how Dowd and the New York Times editors didn’t catch this.  After Jayson Blair’s very public firing in 2003 for admittedly much more flagrant ethical infractions, one would hope the New York Times would do more to safeguard its integrity. 

The message that must be shared is that stealing another’s work and attempting to pass it off as our own is wrong and it is intolerable.  This is the primary message I teach my college students in their first writing course. 

Note:  This was published as an editorial in the Milwauke Journal Sentinel on May 21, 2009.

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