Tag Archives: plagiarism

Posted in Media

Gazette kills soccer column over plagiarism charge

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.

Posted in Media, Opinion

TVA plagiarist speaks out

Stéphane Malhomme, the recent Concordia journalism graduate who was caught plagiarizing a Rue Frontenac piece for the website of TVA’s Argent and subsequently fired, has broken his earlier silence with a letter to Rue Frontenac, among others.

He confirms that he was handed a printout of the Rue Frontenac piece by his employer and told to use it as background – with only 45 minutes left in his shift. (It’s not clear if he was also told not to mention Rue Frontenac as a source.) He says he believed what he was doing was okay at the time, and that his boss approved the text, presumably aware of the blatant plagiarism or even encouraging it.

That said, he says he takes responsibility for what he did and isn’t trying to deflect blame, just to set the record straight.

Malhomme trots out the usual excuses for plagiarism:

  • I didn’t think what I did was wrong
  • I didn’t have enough time
  • I was overworked
  • I don’t do this normally
  • This is a problem with the system, not just me

His text has been described as “courageous” by commenters, and “honest” by Jean-François Lisée. I don’t know if it’s either of those things. It’s incredibly self-serving, and Malhomme has nothing to lose now that he’s been branded a plagiarist and he’s out of a job. His disclaimer that he takes responsibility for his actions seems to be contradicted by all the other things he says.

But Malhomme is right that this is also a problem with the system. The fact that he was handed a printout from Rue Frontenac in the first place, the fact that news media are discouraged from citing one another (and that Quebecor media are seemingly forbidden from referencing Rue Frontenac but more than willing to steal their scoops), the fact that young journalists are expected to throw together a story on deadline with few resources, the fact that such work isn’t checked for things like this before being published. It shouldn’t be too surprising that an issue of plagiarism will eventually surface in such an environment.

But under that pressure, Malhomme resorted to using another person’s words and putting his name on it, something he knew – or should have known – was wrong.

It’s a decision he made as part of a 45-minute assignment that he’ll have to live with for a long, long time.

UPDATE: Trente interviews an anonymous Quebecor employee who wasn’t a witness to what happened but still feels free to offer opinions that shed a negative light on his or her employer. The interviewee suggests with no apparent evidence that if the victim was any news organization other than Rue Frontenac, there would not have been such a fallout.

UPDATE (Dec. 20): The Conseil de Presse has ruled on this matter, blaming QMI, the Journal de Montréal and Argent, which all published the piece. None of those organizations cooperated with the council, and Malhomme has confessed, making the decision kind of pointless.

Posted in Media, Opinion, Technology

TVA journalist fired for plagiarizing Rue Frontenac

You probably didn’t know until this week about a journalist named Stéphane Malhomme.

It’s OK, though, because two years out of journalism school, and a month into a job as a web editor for Canoe, his journalism career is over.

In case you didn’t hear, Malhomme published an article on the website of Canal Argent, TVA’s business network, about this guy Martin Tremblay who is fighting the government over tax money he thinks he doesn’t owe them. Nothing particularly special about the story. It’s topped with a quote from Tremblay (from an “exclusive” interview on Argent), and has a bunch of background below.

The article has since been pulled, but Google Cache still has it, and it was republished through the Agence QMI service, and appeared in the Journal de Montréal.

It didn’t take long before the folks at Rue Frontenac, the website of the locked-out journalists and other workers at the Journal de Montréal, saw this piece and noticed that it bore a striking resemblance to one written by Martin Bisaillon that same day.

In fact, the resemblance was more than striking. Though the stories are not identical, some sentences and even entire paragraphs are. But Canoe’s story makes no reference to Rue Frontenac.

Rue Frontenac cried foul, and by the next day TVA apologized for the plagiarism and said it had fired Malhomme. (As a contract worker, Malhomme did not have job security from the union.)

Continue reading

Posted in Media, Opinion

Conseil de presse outs TVA for journalistic plagiarism

The Conseil de presse du Québec has denied an appeal of a decision which blames TVA for stealing a story from the biweekly Courrier Laval that studied the condition of water around Montreal.

The story made the Courrier Laval, which then ended up in La Presse, and was picked up by Patrick Lagacé, which is how I found it.

The TVA report repeated the conclusions of the investigation without attributing the source, which royally pissed off the journalist who spent months working on the story. Their argument was that the information from the newspaper was in the “public domain” and that no copyright could be attached to an idea.

Of course, the argument isn’t over copyright, it’s over journalistic integrity. Journalists can’t simply repeat what they’ve heard without saying where they heard it from. Without proper attribution, errors and misinformation can spread quickly. And no journalist should simply trust what another says is correct.

As Lagacé points out, though, this kind of thing happens all the time, especially with morning radio just reading the news out of the newspaper. The evening TV news is less underhanded about it. They’ll spend a day re-interviewing the same people and producing a story of their own, but it’s just as annoying when they won’t say where the idea came from and who reported it first.

Newspapers themselves aren’t completely without fault here either. They’ll re-report stories they found with the competition or what they saw on TV news the night before, sometimes using purposely vague attribution like “a Montreal newspaper” or “reports said.” But it’s not nearly as bad as what you see in broadcasting.

TVA’s transgression was particularly bad, but let’s hope this decision acts as a wakeup call for those journalists who think they can cut corners by re-reporting stories and are too shameless to give credit where it’s due.

Posted in Media

Independent.ie copies McKibbin’s quotes from Gazette

I just learned from Kate that the Irish media is all over the McKibbin’s story.

Now, I don’t want to accuse the Independent and its writer Jerome Reilly of plagiarism, but:

From Reilly’s story at independent.ie on Sunday:

“C’est ridicule, plus que ca, c’est stupide,” said Stephane Lajoie-Plante, who said he was a Quebec nationalist with some Irish ancestry.

“These signs aren’t outside where everyone can see them. They aren’t promoting English. If the Office wants to pick a fight with someone, you don’t pick a fight with the Irish over something as silly as this.”

Michael Kenneally, head of Concordia College Irish studies programme, said the signs were “cultural artifacts that spoke to Irish history”.

“They are in no way a commercial proposition, because they are not specifically selling any of these products,” he added.

From Alan Hustak’s Gazette’s story on Friday:

“C’est ridicule, plus que ça, c’est stupide,” said Stéphane Lajoie-Plante, who said he was a Quebec nationalist with some Irish ancestry.

“These signs aren’t outside where everyone can see them. They aren’t promoting English. If the Office wants to pick a fight with someone, you don’t pick a fight with the Irish over something as silly as this.”

Michael Kenneally, head of Concordia’s Irish studies program, said the signs are “cultural artifacts that speak to Irish history.”

“They are in no way a commercial proposition, because they are not specifically selling any of these products,” he added.

Reilly doesn’t mention The Gazette once in his story as a source.

Posted in Blogosphere, Media, Navel-gazing

Toronto Sun sorry for plagiarizing Torontoist

The Toronto Sun has apologized after Torontoist noticed an article the Sun ran copied a paragraph word-for-word from a blog post of theirs two days earlier. Though the blog considers the matter closed, Craig Silverman does his usual complaint that the apology is too brief, doesn’t explain how the error occurred and doesn’t say if there was an investigation into the reporter’s past articles for instances of plagiarism.

Meanwhile, I’m still waiting for one of the big papers to plagiarize one of my posts without credit. When is it going to be my turn?

Posted in Media, Navel-gazing, On the Net

How to piss off a blogger 101

  1. Setup a website that purports to be some sort of independent news source.
  2. Take a blog post and put it on your website without asking permission. At the end of the post, include a plea for money.
  3. When the blogger you just stole from err, politely requests that the post be taken down, respond by replacing his byline with your own, removing the link to the blog in question and keeping the plagiarized content pretending it’s your own.

There you go folks. Getting on my shit list in three easy steps.

So to be clear: “The Canadian National Newspaper”, a.k.a. AgoraCosmopolitan.com knowingly plagiarizes content.

UPDATE (Dec. 1): It goes without saying that I’m not the only one they’ve ripped off.

Posted in Media, Montreal

Plagiarized in your own paper — NOT

The irony is just too much.

It appears that La Presse’s letter of the week for Oct. 27, about the oversexualization of young girls, was plagiarized from quoted* a Patrick Lagacé column a month before.

As Lagacé puts it: Plagiarized in your own paper, c’est fort en ta

* The story gets better: The letter actually properly referenced Lagacé’s column. But the citation was cut from the letter before it was published, leaving only the copied text. Now Lagacé, and a copy editor somewhere in the La Presse editorial department, are eating a double serving of crow.

I’m trying not to laugh.

Posted in Media

Familiar story in the Globe (UPDATED)

An email on the CAJ listserv pointed me to a Globe & Mail Facts and Arguments piece called “The English Assignment“. It’s by freelancer Sharon Melnicer of Winnipeg, who’s written for dozens of publications.

The story is about an assignment she says was handed to students in her class in the 1990s to have them write a story together, each alternatively writing a paragraph. The result is a story that radically changes direction in each paragraph as the two writers attempt to wrestle control from each other, and it eventually degenerates into profane name-calling.

The problem: This story has been circulating around the Internet for a decade. That story has the names changed (including the name of the teacher who assigned it), but the story is otherwise exactly the same.

The way I see it, there are three explanations for this:

  1. Sharon Melnicer is the original source of the Internet legend, and the names were changed before the story was disseminated online. I find this unlikely because the Globe story says students were supposed to communicate exclusively via email, and email simply wasn’t in widespread use in 1997. (UPDATE: The Snopes page has been updated to reflect Melnicer’s claim as the source of the story, based exclusively on the article.)
  2. Sharon Melnicer’s students read the story on the Internet and decided to plagiarize it. That doesn’t really make sense either (and would you send your teacher profanity like that if you wanted her to grade the story and forget about it?). But if true, she should have caught it and certainly not given these students full marks.
  3. Sharon Melnicer’s students never submitted this story, and she simply rewrote one she found online claiming it happened to her. I’ve read a couple of other stories she’s written and none are obviously plagiarized from other sources. I find it hard to believe a seasoned freelancer would throw her career away over a Globe Facts & Arguments piece.

I’ve emailed Ms. Melnicer to ask her about the story. I’ll update this post when I hear back from her.

I’m sure it’s all just a misunderstanding.

UPDATE: The Globe apparently is saying it’s #1, and that she just sat on the story for 10 years after presenting it at a workshop for teachers in 1997. Plausible, but still strange.

UPDATE: Her response:

Yes, it is indeed a coincidence and not one I’m very pleased with. This is the fourth time I have “met myself” on the Internet after penning and submitting an original piece. I didn’t realize my essay had been posted on <snopes.com> until it was published in ‘Facts & Arguments’ on Tuesday and generated a response like yours.

The following response to your comment is being given to readers like you who wonder why they’ve seen the piece before and how it’s come to be so widely circulated.

Regards,
Sharon Melnicer

Dear F&A reader,

Thank you for your e-mail re the essay of Sept. 5.

The essay writer, Sharon Melnicer, tells me she first presented this article at a province-wide workshop for Manitoba English teachers in 1997. She says she had found the idea ( ‘Writing a Tandem Story’) as explained in the essay, in a professional journal . The first part of a sample tandem story (the “Outer Space” theme) as well as the teacher’s instructions for students were provided in the article. Ms. Melnicer says she tried it out with Grade XI and XII students, as her essay describes, then wrote up what happened and presented it at the workshop. Copies of that paper were distributed to the 50 or so participants who attended. Nothing further happened regarding publication of the piece until she picked it up again after retiring, did some revisions, and submitted it to F&A.

Ms Melnicer says she knows plagiarism is a serious offence, and not one she would commit. I have no reason to doubt her.

Moira Dann

Editor
Facts&Arguments