Business journalism and plagiarism

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Kathy English, the ombudsman at the Toronto Star, writes about how the paper investigated allegations of plagiarism against one of its business reporters.

English writes, “Reporter Madhavi Acharya-Tom Yew apologized immediately for her ‘poor judgment’ in lifting words from the Globe. This was a significant mistake and managing editor Jane Davenport launched a review of the reporter’s work over the past year. That’s in line with best practices whenever plagiarism is found.

“Last week, she sent an email to the newsroom informing everyone of the overall findings of the review. She said: ‘Although it found some lapses, it shows an overall pattern of attention to attribution.’

“I’ve looked at those ‘lapses’ — a handful of stories that included similar wording, without attribution, to stories from the Star’s wire services, including The Canadian Press, Reuters and Bloomberg. In some cases, the reporter had included necessary attribution but it was dropped in the editing process.

“Of most concern to me were two examples of similar wording of background information and explanatory facts to stories from other news organizations: A July 5 Q&A article on Libor (the London Interbank Offered Rate) used two paragraphs of explanatory text from a BBC Q&A on Libor, unattributed. A July 15 article used phrasing from an FP article on Libor to describe background.

“We will be editing and appending notes to the online and archive versions of these articles to tell readers these stories included improper attribution.

“From the outset, Acharya-Tom Yew took responsibly for this lapse in standards. She fully acknowledges — and has learned from — her mistakes. She understands she must take far greater care in attributing any information she learns from other published sources. And she knows that using the same words of another writer, even to express background explanatory facts, is never acceptable.”

Read more here.