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.

I'd be interested in hearing more on what exactly your college professors said about plagarism. When I was in college they made a big - huge - point, even in orientation, of hammering the point about plagarism. Every professor talked about it, some more than others, but they discussed it enough that I'd assume we were all quite paranoid. They talked abotu all the methods they used to track down plagarists in the digital age... mind ,this was before even Google was ubiquitous. The bottom line was they went out of their way to make every student in that entire school know that plagarism = immediate expulsion with no appeal.
Oh, my college profs at the very least made us read out loud the standard definition and punishments for plagiarism at the beginning of each semester-class. What I meant about saying "plagiarism" in college was in regards to tutoring, I wasn't supposed to use the word or make an accusation unless really, really serious. Otherwise, I was supposed to explain the concept clearly, point out what might be a problem, etc...

What I meant was plagiarism is not only a serious offense, but a serious accusation--neither to be taken lightly.

An odd thing I learned in college is that copying from yourself (i.e. using part or a whole assignment for one class in another, without referencing its earlier use) can also be considered P-worthy, with similar consequences...

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