Student Editor Fired for Plagiarizing for a Year from More Than 20 Sources

The Criterion has canned its online editor for indulging in an unconscionably large dose of plagiarism. Top staff at the Colorado Mesa University student newspaper recently discovered “as many as 16 of the opinion pieces she has written since October 2012 contain content plagiarized from at least 22 sources.”

The word you are looking for is Wowza. Or as the fired editor would write, after reading this post: The word you are looking for is Wowza. (Too soon?)

According to a Criterion report on the copycatting (hat tip to the lovely Andrew Beaujon at Poynter), editors first learned about the misdeeds Monday night. They very quickly launched an investigation, removed all content produced by the staffer from the paper’s website and then removed her from her position.

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The list of sources that had content stolen from them without proper citation: “Alternet, The Associated Press, Backlash.com, The Chicago Reader, CollegeNews.com, E! Online, Jezebel.com, The National Post, The New York Daily News, The New York Post, the web portal Philly.com, Scene-Stealers.com, Slate, The St. Paul Pioneer Press, Time Magazine, The Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post … the book ‘Stuff Hipsters Hate: A Field Guide to the Passionate Opinions of the Indifferent,’ user comments from Change.org and Debate.org and blog content from oliviaacole.wordpress.com.”

It is unclear from the paper’s initial report why the editor engaged in such repeated wrongdoing or how it was at last uncovered.

Also missing: the disgraced editor’s name. The Criterion identifies her only by gender. The paper is seemingly following in the footsteps of The Daily O’Collegian at Oklahoma State University. As I previously posted, the O’Colly recently revealed it had terminated a staff writer for fabricating sources, but declined to name her outright in its note to readers.

Yet, the Criterion does report it has passed her name and a rundown of her misconduct along to university officials. For the former editor, this means inquiry-punishment-unhappy-not-so-fun-time.

Speaking of unhappy, commenters beneath Beaujon’s related Poynter post share three main concerns:

1) Given the editor’s student status, this indiscretion is not worthy of an appearance on a site of such national stature as Poynter.

2) The main reason the plagiarism went on for so long undetected is because student journalists are not reading enough outside news.

3) The Criterion should be embarrassed by its failure to link to “expert source material” mentioned in its news reports and op-eds posted online.

A sampling of the comments: “I don’t think a college student’s poor judgment should be national news. These are not professionals. … If anyone at CMU read [the outlets named above] plus the student newspaper, the plagiarism would have been caught before 22 times. … What’s more shocking to me than the plagiarism itself is the fact that the online version of The Criterion provides no links to supporting information in any of its reported stories or opinion pieces. What a huge disservice to its readers and staff in not demanding depth, nuance and engagement by linking to expert source material.”

What do you think?

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