Posted by Rachel Weeks
While plagiarism is hardly a new problem, it seems that the development of the internet has made it infinitely easier. Millions of writers post their work online–articles, columns, blog posts and the like–and it is instantly made available to anyone with a computer and a search engine. With that many articles online, catching a plagiarist is like trying to play a memory matching game with a billion cards.
On the other hand, the internet also makes plagiarism easier to detect. If there is even a whisper of suspicion, an editor only needs to google the suspect passage to find the plagiarized material. But despite the internet’s quick and thorough search features, plagiarism remains prevalent.
In early March of 2012, Jon Flatland–former president of the North Dakota Newspaper Association and one-time newspaper owner–was accused of serial plagiarism by humor writer, Dave Fox, who alleged that Flatland stole a number of columns from him. Fox continued to dig and found many more suspected cases of plagiarism under Flatland’s byline including a humor column for which Flatland received an award from the North Dakota Newspaper Association (NDNA). The column was actually written by Jason Offutt.
According to Rick Bussler, publisher of The Times, Flatland had been in the news industry for 28 years with evidence to support that he plagiarized throughout. Flatland was even fired once before for plagiarism while serving as editor of the Cavalier County Republican in Langton, N.D.
Flatland was given a second chance at journalism, one that he subsequently blew at a different newspaper. If you had a staff member that was caught plagiarizing, how would you handle that? Answer the poll and leave a comment to elaborate.