Monday's Gazette includes a note to readers saying that it will no longer be carrying a weekly soccer column written by Paul Carbray.
The reason? Repeated instances of plagiarism, the paper concluded:
It was recently brought to our attention that a column which was submitted for publication used material from another source without attribution. A check of columns we published over the previous two months turned up two other cases where, again, extended passages were taken from articles and blogs that had been published online by other media outlets. The passages were repeated in the Gazette columns with very minor changes and no attribution.
Carbray, a former copy editor on the sports desk (one I worked with for a couple of years while he was there), wrote the weekly column and an accompanying notes package on the subject of European soccer for the past 15 years.
He told OpenFile Montreal that he had no excuse:
"I am well aware that plagiarism is a journalistic mortal sin,” Carbray said via email. “In 15 years of doing a column, my standards slipped on these occasions and I regret that extremely. Ultimately, there is no excuse. The fault was of method mostly, not intention. This is not how I envisioned ending 40 years in journalism.”
Local corrections specialist Craig Silverman writes about this case for Poynter, and suggests a more thorough investigation is needed.
The last time something like this happened was in 2006, when The Gazette found that language columnist Howard Richler had lifted material from reference sources without attributing it. His column was terminated and he hasn't written for the paper since, though he has written for other publications including the National Post.
I haven't conducted my own investigation into the accusation against Carbray, and due to the inherent conflict I won't analyze this specific case significantly.
But this kind of thing is a constant worry at the back of any journalist's mind, and if it isn't it should be. The mistake can seem so minor at times - just forgetting to attribute a quote or a turn of phrase or a piece of information. The intentions can be honourable - not all cases are like a high school kid taking a paper written by someone else and putting his name on it. It could just be a question of rushing through a story on deadline and being lazy about a minor but still fundamental point.
But the consequences can be devastating. Being branded a plagiarist can end a journalist's career.
A memo was sent to The Gazette's newsroom staff reminding them of the seriousness of plagiarism and the need to attribute. Hopefully we can prevent such a thing happening again.