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Can you plagiarize yourself?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Gomer, May 24, 2012.

  1. Gomer

    Gomer Active Member

    I've got a weird situation tonight where a former columnist, who stopped writing for a period of three years and was recently convinced to return, has submitted his first column for publication in tomorrow's edition.

    In the email, he writes that it's an updated version of one he wrote for me four years ago.

    Keep in mind that he doesn't get paid by the paper to do this, he gets paid from a local sport development entity that we're happy to get free content from.

    Anyhow, I open the old column, then open the new one and damned if he hasn't just changed a couple sentences. It's not that he's revisiting it, he's basically sending the same copy he did four years ago.

    What would you do in this scenario? He and I have had a rocky relationship so on one hand I don't want to piss him off and be the bad guy. On the other hand I want to scream that sending the same shit, no matter how long it's been, is not acceptable.
  2. LongTimeListener

    LongTimeListener Well-Known Member

    I would say ethics are not your shop's highest priority to begin with.
  3. Zeke12

    Zeke12 Guest

    You ain't paying for it, no room to bitch.
  4. Gomer

    Gomer Active Member

    Yeah that was my thought. But the decision not to pay certainly wasn't my idea.

    It feels like a situation where I'm damned if I do and I'm damned if I don't. If I complain, yup, we're not paying so STFU. If I don't, I allowed someone to do it on my watch and feel like I've let my profession down.

    For now I've written a tagline to run in italics at the top of the piece identifying when the original article ran and that this is an updated version of it.
  5. Stoney

    Stoney Well-Known Member

    Somebody better warn Bill Simmons if you can't. Nobody in the history of writing has ever recycled his lines more often.
  6. Stitch

    Stitch Active Member

    It seems most stories in a newspaper are recycled, especially when it comes to regular events.
  7. Starman

    Starman Well-Known Member

    Does this guy have some patron saint (bosom buddies with the publisher, married to the daughter of the biggest advertiser in town, etc etc.) that makes him invulnerable? As in, they'd fire you before they'd fire him?

    If so, grit your teeth and run it as is -- not a syllable changed. If the decision has been made that this guy's shit smells so sweet and savory he can't be touched, then it is what it is.

    If not, tell him to shove off.
  8. Gomer

    Gomer Active Member

    Crazy thing is, he submitted it as he did in 2008 with things like "100%" (not per cent), that I edited to style the first time and have now re-edited. You'd at least think he would send the version as I ran it, but no.
  9. Gomer

    Gomer Active Member

    No firing involved because of the free copy aspect. He's not employed by us, it's a brutal situation for me to be in. I feel like I have zero power to tell the columnist what to do because I should be happy to get copy, period.

    Part of this is that his column is in a rotation with the sport development entity that provides them for us. So I also don't want to cause problems with them, as the other columnists that send stuff in from them are good. Heck, his columns are good if they weren't duplicated. I only see something from him every couple months.

    Anyhow I'm going to talk to the guy who does sign his cheques tonight and put it as delicately as possible that it would be nice if he gave us some original content next time around. After all, if they're paying for the column he copied, they're likely to be pissed off that he didn't really do any work for it.
  10. My email would read, "Hey, I don't see any sense in running something that we've already printed. Do you have something new or should I just catch up with you next week for your next column?"

    Just because it's free doesn't mean you have to drop your standard to zero. The fact that you came to this board to ask this means you probably don't want to run it, so unless he's golfing buddies with your publisher, don't run it.
  11. Double J

    Double J Active Member

    Plagiarize yourself? Unpossible.

    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 15, 2014
  12. SoccerFan

    SoccerFan Member

    You can't plagiarize yourself, but the writer could be violating a copyright law depending on what was agreed between him and the original publication that published the story. When I used stuff I wrote for newspapers in my first book, I got written permission from my previous newspaper company, stating that some parts of the book originally appeared at blah blah, and then submitted that paperwork to my book publisher. My publisher was happy with me, obviously.
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