1. Welcome to SportsJournalists.com, a friendly forum for discussing all things sports and journalism.

    Your voice is missing! You will need to register for a free account to get access to the following site features:
    • Reply to discussions and create your own threads.
    • Access to private conversations with other members.
    • Fewer ads.

    We hope to see you as a part of our community soon!

Exposing Plagiarism/Fabrication

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by YankeeFan, Jul 31, 2012.

  1. YankeeFan

    YankeeFan Well-Known Member

    Between Jonah Lehrer and Lynn Hoppes, plagiarism and fabrication are in the news.

    Should these instances have us concerned about what we read? Are we consuming stories loaded with plagiarism and fabrication daily?

    Or, is it evidence of how easily plagiarism and fabrication are exposed, and should allay our fears?

    It makes me wonder who could stand up to the scrutiny Deadspin applied to Hoppes work.

    How easy do you think it would be to expose plagiarism and/or fabrication in other writers? If you set out to expose it, do you think you could? How long do you think it would take you? Where would you start?

    I almost think it would be an interesting exercise to see what we could collectively come up with.
  2. Mizzougrad96

    Mizzougrad96 Active Member


    As much as plagiarism happens, I think fabrication happens a lot more...
  3. Versatile

    Versatile Active Member

    I think the Internet has made plagiarism much easier to detect and fabrication more difficult. In previous eras, editors' vetting of sources was much better. Now, no one has the time.
  4. Mizzougrad96

    Mizzougrad96 Active Member

    I've worked with or alongside several people who I thought did it a lot...

    I worked with a guy who did it all the time... Everybody there knows he does it. Nobody cares enough to prove it. He basically admitted it to me.

    Should I have turned him in? Maybe... Probably... I don't know... There were a few incidents during my career where I should have turned someone in, but didn't, because either I don't want to get involved, I don't want someone getting fired being on my conscience or because it wasn't my job to police other writers...

    What's funny is he seems to survive all of the layoffs. He's well-liked and he's under the radar and he'll probably retire there...
  5. bpoindexter

    bpoindexter Member

    Two summers ago, while working on call for a daily, I was editing a national baseball notebook. To cross-check a fact, I went to the Internet and was led to the player's name. I clicked on the story done by a guy at a paper in the East and found the lede to be word for word with the notebook I was editing.

    I alerted our copy chief, who called an editor at both papers. Neither appeared to give a shit when he talked to them, and nothing ever came of it.
  6. JackS

    JackS Member

    I hope you're wrong, but I fear you're not, because everybody knows fabrication is much harder to catch. Someone else really needs to know what you're writing is not true, as opposed to anyone just being able to do a search and find an identical passage.

    And to my way of thinking, fabrication is the bigger sin.
  7. jr/shotglass

    jr/shotglass Well-Known Member

    As long as we have Wikipedia as a source, we don't have to worry about fabrication.
  8. 21

    21 Well-Known Member

    I think most writers do not plagiarize or fabricate.
  9. copperpot

    copperpot Well-Known Member

    I have caught two writers, one for plagiarism and the other for fabrication. The fabrication was much harder to prove, but the Internet was actually an ally.

    In the plagiarism case, the guy was writing about a golf course and spelled it two different ways. As I was googling to find out which was right, I stumbled upon a story that was the exact same as the one I was editing. The writer had written his own intro and conclusion, but pretty much stuck the other story right in the middle of his. He had some convoluted explanation about how he knew the other writer and he'd signed off on his using it.

    I was turned on to the fabrication one pretty much by accident. Again, I think a name was spelled two different ways. Oddly enough, I didn't get any google hits on either. There was a hometown attached to the names; I tried whitepages and still didn't find anything. So, just out of curiosity, I ran whitepages searches on everyone in the story. And none of the dozen or so people came up.

    I knew this reporter was a slacker. A couple weeks earlier, she'd gone out to do an interview; the source later called to complain the reporter never showed up. So I had a hunch that it wasn't just coincidence the names weren't coming up.

    Long story short, she turned in another story with questionable names, and our editor told her he wanted phone numbers or other verification for some of the sources. About four hours later, she gives us a phone number that's in a different area code. We were sure it was her friend's cell, but how to prove it? I figured when we called and she saw OUR area code, she'd know to pretend she was the source.

    As it happened, I lived in a different town and state than my paper and had the same area code as the reporter in question. So I used my cell to call, and to my amazement, the girl answered the phone by giving her name. I cross checked that against the reporter's MySpace page, and there were all kinds of comments and pictures back and forth.

    So the editor called her in and said asked her if she knew "Jessica," the name the girl had answered the phone with. The reporter said no. He said, "That's funny ..." and pulled up her Myspace page.

    She said, "I probably shouldn't work here anymore," and walked out.

    It always burned me up that my paper never made any of this public. The girl later got a job with NBC.

    I'm sure there's a lot more out there, sadly.
  10. YankeeFan

    YankeeFan Well-Known Member

    I would agree, but "most" only means 50% +1.

    I wouldn't be very encouraged to learn that "most" stock brokers are ethical, or "most" auto mechanics are ethical.

    What percentage of writers practicing plagiarism or fabrication is required to discredit the profession?

    And, it's hard to not get jaded when big names are caught in the act -- people you would have never suspected.

    I guess it's a little bit like steroids in baseball. The more players that get caught, the more everyone comes under suspicion.
  11. Mizzougrad96

    Mizzougrad96 Active Member

    I agree with 21 that most writers don't plagiarize or fabricate stories or quotes. I wouldn't be surprised if that number of writers that do is between 5-10 percent though, which is still very, very high...
  12. Versatile

    Versatile Active Member

    I'd like to think most of us get into this industry because some compelling force drives us to tell people the truth. Every day, my cynicism increases.
Draft saved Draft deleted

Share This Page