The purpose of this article is to explain plagiarism encountered in journalism by explaining the phenomenon with examples and reasoning.
What is Considered Plagiarism in Journalism and Media
The presence of plagiarism in journalism is even more common compared to academic writing. Journalists have to work with a plethora of sources by taking a closer look at the information that is always presented under pressure or according to certain corporations or stakeholders. In simple terms, when plagiarism is encountered, it usually stands for taking a piece of someone else's work or coping something entirely by presenting it as something that you have created. It's one of the worst scenarios for a journalist that usually marks the end of a professional career. It can also lead to legal action when a prosecutor or a media company can prove that an intellectual property theft has taken place.
Unlike academic writing where a student still learns how to come up with unique assignments, media companies are very strict when it comes to plagiarism. It comes down to the matters of ethics when the production of content takes place. It doesn't matter if we are dealing with a news report or an article that researches fashion, music, environmental issues, or making media coverage. It makes plagiarism in media easy to notice, especially when we are dealing with online outlets where one can check the wording by checking something with a search engine. Since we are dealing with fakes and unverified information, many people are unaware that such kind of content is also related to plagiarism and represents a crime in the sphere of journalism.
The Core Principles of Journalism & Plagiarism Risks
Dealing with plagiarism issues and the different types, one must realize that an ethical code remains the same for anyone starting with a publication. Starting with the cases of unintentional plagiarism that we could see in the political speeches or various examples of plagiarism in music, modern journalists are facing even more pressure. There are core principles that help them stay on track and avoid dangers. These principles include truthfulness, being accurate, staying objective, unbiased, fair, and remembering about public accountability. Understanding all of these writing aspects first, a professional journalist will check each fact twice by researching more than one source of information and checking with the past articles that have been published on a certain subject. It helps to analyze every important point and focus on the synthesis of available information.
Since no journalist will choose to copy someone’s creation by intention, it’s vital to look into the other types of plagiarism in media that may happen when no proper editing or paraphrasing has been done.
Self-plagiarism in Journalism with Examples
Turning to self-plagiarism in journalism, we can take a look at famous cases like Johan Lehrer's scandal and many other famous authors who plagiarized. The most challenging part here is that certain journalists and online bloggers often turn to their past articles and use the parts that have been already used before. As a professional, journalists should avoid this as they need to research and approach strategic thinking methods. Still, self-plagiarism among journalists has another danger that is related to copyright and publishing rights when a piece of intellectual property is taken from one article to another or when a part of your personal blog is copied for a professional newspaper.
It does not require any writing experience for identification of plagiarism in journalism examples as these are more than “we have heard this before” issues. One of the most famous examples of plagiarism among journalists is the case of Jason Blair and the scandal with the New York Times.
Jayson Blair, a promising reporter for the New York Times, became synonymous with plagiarism in journalism in 2003. After an editor at the San Antonio Express-News noticed similarities between Blair's column and the work of Macarena Hernandez, a reporter at the same publication, an investigation was launched. The inquiry revealed that Blair had engaged in unethical practices, including plagiarism, fabrication, and other misconduct, in at least 36 of his 73 articles. Blair resigned from the New York Times, and his name became synonymous with the act of plagiarism. He later pursued a career as a life coach and occasionally offered advice during the Jonah Lehrer plagiarism case.
Another important case relates to Jack Kelley of the USA Today fame, which is an even deeper case of self-plagiarism that has also involved the fabrication of information and lack of sources that would help support the facts. Turning to unverified facts, Kelly continued using his past reports and published works.
Another famous case of plagiarism in journalism is Nada Behziz case.
Nada Behziz, a reporter at The Bakersfield Californian, was fired in 2005 when her editors discovered plagiarism in her articles, including one case where a quotation was copied from a 1995 story. Further investigation revealed more instances of plagiarism in her work, along with a potential fabrication. Behziz responded defensively to the accusations but has since disappeared from public view, with no recent media mentions or confirmed activity in journalism.
Politics and Speeches Plagiarism
There are also more famous cases of plagiarism in the media if we turn to the speech that has been created by Melania Trump. As one compares the speech to the one that has been performed by Michelle Obama, one can see the similarities. Although one cannot say that either one of the ladies did something intentionally, the professional speechwriter behind the politicians may have self-plagiarized the best bits that have been heard and seen by millions of people worldwide. One should realize that there was no bad intention per se and no one has been fired, yet it’s obvious that there could have been a totally different outcome.
There are also specific plagiarism examples that one can face among the journalists like the famous Rick Bragg controversy that has been discovered in 2003. The problem was with the bylines that have been basely composed by a freelance writer via interviews and the sources. It's one of those plagiarism cases that can also be encountered among musicians or fashion artists who do not give due credit or remain honest about their sources.
How to Avoid Plagiarism in Journalism
As we explore certain plagiarism cases in journalism or plagiarism on social media, it becomes obvious that one has to implement different methodologies and ways how to avoid it when brainstorming ideas or scanning through events or historical reporting. While the simplest way to avoid plagiarism is staying honest and providing every reference when some idea is not entirely yours, there are still additional solutions worth mentioning:
- Do Your Own Reporting.
The golden rule of a skilled journalist is turning to unique reporting where no other content is being used. It can be a video interview or an audio track where a journalist can provide analytical comments and focus on live reporting or broadcasting. This way you do not have to risk turning to someone else’s content.
- Paraphrasing Trick.
It can easily get tricky, yet paraphrasing is what helps to avoid the major risks by talking about something in your own words by keeping the main message. Remember to avoid distorting the facts and keeping information impartial. If there are numbers of locations, keep them accurate!
- Plagiarism Checker Online.
As an alternative that works rather well, check out the plagiarism checker for journalism and media. The main feature worth mentioning is that it supports multiple languages, which means that you do not have to stress when you are dealing with international media. It can scan your content in major languages. When you are about to finish your article or a blog post, access the plagiarism tool from all devices. You can even scan a picture and process it right away to see if there are risks and similarities.
You can also process documents and come up with detailed reports that will help to avoid similarities. It supports various formats, which means that you can share your file without having to convert it to get the similarity report. If you have a blog, this plagiarism checker is great for media platforms where you can scan your posts regularly. The use of a cloud-based solution helps you to stay safe and publish your content without violating certain laws where your publishing or an opinion may be restricted.
- Check Your Sources Twice & Give Due Credit.
If you can avoid turning to another report or information as you compose your publication, do so! It’s another case when you need to provide statistical data and support your arguments with a piece of evidence. Always provide credit to organizations and original authors to avoid copyright claims and violations.
The Moral Aspect of Plagiarism
As a journalist or a blogger, each person tends to fall into the trap of plagiarism as we make reposts and scan through the latest news as our primary sources instantly become secondary. The problem is that the majority of journalists are skipping the moral aspect of writing and verification as the deadlines are pushing and the shock element is always there. Taking a look at the examples provided, learning how to avoid plagiarism in journalism, and exploring the reasons behind each case, one can see that without a moral constituent, it’s not possible to keep things unique because it’s the attitude that matters and the honesty that a person strives for!
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