Journalism Has a Plagiarism Problem. but It’s Not the One You’d Expect
If you plagiarize then some media organizations are more forgiving than others. IMHO if you are a serial plagiarizer then you need to go, but it’s the first offense there should be some flexibility.
A CJR cover story in 1995 analyzed 20 cases of plagiarism in the previous seven years, concluding, “Punishment is uneven, ranging from severe to virtually nothing even for major offenses.” Laura Parker was fired from The Post in 1991 for lifting quotes from the Associated Press and Miami Herald. Denver Post columnist Ken Hamblin, meanwhile, was suspended for two months in 1994 after he copied five paragraphs from a Rocky Mountain News report. “The sin itself carries neither public humiliation nor the mark of Cain,” CJR’s Trudy Lieberman wrote. “Some editors will keep a plagiarist on staff or will knowingly hire one if talent outweighs the infraction.”
A University of Maryland study found similar ambiguity in 76 newspaper plagiarism cases between 1997 and 2006. Forty-three of those offenders — 56 percent — lost their jobs, with the rate of punishment steadily increasing from minor to major to repeated infractions. Perhaps more interestingly, the papers’ word choice in publicly responding to those crimes largely correlated with their eventual sanctions — “plagiarism” typically garnered termination while synonymously described offenses earned lesser punishments.
A September analysis by Politico reporter Dylan Byers and two media ethics experts argued that Zakaria had indeed plagiarized a number of articles by “patch writing,” small changes to language that mask theft of larger ideas. “Case by case, the examples here qualify more as violations or misdemeanors than serious crimes,” Byers wrote. “But taken together, they show an undeniable pattern of behavior.” Disputing such behavior is a hard case to make without more details from Zakaria. The writer and TV host has remained relatively silent other than an August email to Politico rebutting some of the charges. He and CNN did not respond to emails seeking comment for this story.