Monday, June 27, 2005

Faux mot foe

Plagiarism, how I hate thee! I was always warned in college against using the P-word because many students--especially young or foreign--don't necessarily understand the concept of correct citation... But there's no excuse for adults or, uh-hum, journalists who crossover into FictionLand.

Just recently two mortgage officers from different companies sent me the same column, word for word, except for the bylines -- asking me to consider the column for print and a little free press in our real estate section. What really got me: the second "writer" had the cajones to follow up, requesting an explanation why it wasn't printed.

But now from my beloved other California newspaper, we are finally learning just how far one columnist would go to make deadline. The Bee story says that after extensive research (carefully and transparently documented in the story), the newspaper found more than 30 "sources" cited by Pullitzer-winner Diana Griego Erwin that they simply cannot prove ever existed. A few of them even had surnames that aren't found anywhere in the United States.

The 'net has made finding out instances of plagiarism so much easier, but now we find a neat little twist. Sure, it was original--perhaps the most original type of writing. Fiction.

No, writing your name at the top of someone else's work and writing imaginary non-fiction are not exactly the same, but they're both lazy and false.

And strenuous truth is what they pay us the big bucks for.

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