Columbia Daily Spectator Fires Writer for Plagiarism; Second College Media Copycatting So Far This Fall

The Columbia Daily Spectator has fired staff writer Jade Bonacolta for plagiarizing a portion of a New York Times article.  As top blog IvyGate— which broke the story– reported, “not only did Bonacolta lift basically full sentences from the New York Times, she went a step further and took a full direct quote from someone she most likely never even spoke to and changed it.”

Both pieces focused on Columbia University’s procurement of personal and professional materials created or owned by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright.  The university is sharing management of the archives with New York’s Museum of Modern Art

Responding to the IvyGate alert, Spectator leadership quickly placed an editor’s note atop Bonacolta’s article.  Soon after, they removed it from the paper’s website.  Subsequently, Bonacolta was fired.

As editor-in-chief Sarah Darville wrote to readers, “We have absolutely no tolerance for plagiarism, and Jade’s relationship with Spectator has been terminated.  We were, as you may be, shocked by such a clear breach of ethics, as our editorial standards for accuracy and originality are the first things new writers learn (second only, perhaps, to their own poor lung capacity after climbing our three sets of stairs).  This situation has been disappointing, but has been dealt with quickly in order not to distract from Spectator’s purpose: to produce high-quality journalism every day that serves the campus and our neighborhood.”

The Spectator snafu is the second high-profile student plagiarism incident so far this semester.  The State Press at Arizona State University recently fired Raquel Velasco for plagiarizing multiple articles.  The East Valley Tribune, a professional daily based in Tempe, Ariz., home to ASU’s main campus, also found evidence of plagiarism in pieces Velasco wrote during a spring 2012 internship.

As the State Press informed readers, “We felt betrayed. Raquel was a promising writer. As a senior at the Walter Cronkite School, the rigorous ethics and the constant diligence to avoid plagiarism is embedded into the education of young journalists. . . . The thought in many of our editors’ minds were, ‘Why didn’t we catch this sooner?’ In some respects, our own editors are at fault for not catching the plagiarism as soon as it hit our desks. For that, we apologize to our readers and promise to work even harder to serve our community the right and responsible way.”

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