Student Newspaper in Canada Retracts, Corrects, Then Deletes (?) Plagiarism Bug

Happy Friday. Question one: If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Question two: If a student newspaper runs a “retraction and correction” atop a plagiarized article and then removes the article from its website, does it really count as a “retraction and correction”?

A recent article in The Brock Press at Ontario’s Brock University included plagiarized chunks from a similar piece posted by The BUG, AKA The Brock University Gadfly, an “independent intermedia publication” (cool description).

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When they discovered the copycatting, Bug staffers rightfully made a stink — pointing out the evidence of plagiarism and not at all overreacting:

“If this were a classroom, the article’s author — who produces many news stories — would clearly be facing Academic Misconduct, which penalizes plagiarism. … Of course, we are in Canada. Where there are laws against this, too. … To be honest, I don’t believe how serious this is. … This tremendous lack of editorial control, and blatant disregard of the basics of plagiarism significantly degrades the Brock Press institution as a whole.”

OK, maybe a tiny bit of overreaction. But hey, they’d just been aped.

So the Press investigated the incident and appeared to own up — at least temporarily.

According to iMediaEthics managing editor extraordinaire Sydney Smith, the Press ran a multi-graf mea culpa that corrected some mistaken facts and confirmed changes to the paper’s production routine in response to the unethical shenanigans. As the statement confirmed, in part, “The author of the article has faced appropriate disciplinary action and the editing process for the newspaper’s production has been expanded in the hopes that an error this serious will never make it to print again.”

1Alas, the article, its corrections and retraction are no longer live and searchable on the Press website. Smith needed good-ol’ Google Cache to ferret them out.

On the main site, when visitors click on the once-active article link, they get the iconic error message: “This is somewhat embarrassing, isn’t it?

Hmm. I don’t know. You tell me.

Now, to be clear, the “retraction and correction” also ran earlier this month in the paper’s print edition and will remain in that archive for ink-stained eternity. Yet, nowadays should it also stay up permanently online? Might that serve as proof the pub recognizes the gravity of the ethical lapse and also ensure no confusion or frustration by future readers or first-draft-of-history researchers who are seeking it out?

Or is it better if bad journalism is simply eliminated as quickly and quietly as possible, almost as if it never existed?

If a tree falls in the forest…

Have a good weekend.

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