Wednesday, December 15, 2010


THEFT, SCHMEFT: The plagiarism- as we depicted it yesterday- of blogger Charley Foster’s summarization of a lawsuit over the Hapa Trail in Koloa by local newspaper reporter Paul Curtis, elicited a mysterious comment by prolific Big Island blogger Damon Tucker (who also uses the “P” word in a post today) which read “Tim Ryan?” and included this link.

It leads to a little know discussion page of the “go to” information repository Wikipedia and a January 2006 article entitled “Wikipedia editors expose journalist's plagiarism.”

Michael Snow writes:

Sleuthing Wikipedia editors have found several cases of apparent plagiarism over the past two years by Tim Ryan, a reporter for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. It began with the discovery of an article last month containing language that closely matched a Wikipedia article, and more investigation found earlier articles that seemed to borrow from additional sources without attribution.

In response to these reports, the Star-Bulletin acknowledged the situation by adding corrections or editor's notes to some of the articles. Star-Bulletin Editor Frank Bridgewater took these actions after investigating the incident and also met with the newspaper's publisher, Dennis Francis, about the situation. However, Bridgewater said last week that he considered the issue of whether any action would be taken against Ryan "a confidential personnel matter."

Apparently Ryan was a serial plagiarist who not only lifted Wikipedia sections unattributed- that essentially being the difference between a “fair use” reference and plagiarism- but also passages from the Sacramento Bee newspaper and the NPR radio program All Things Considered, according to Snow.

But you’d think they’d have learned, especially Bridgewater who continued on at the new Star-Advertiser when the Star-Bulletin “bought out” the bigger and stronger Advertiser.

While we’ve reserved a special place in journalism purgatory for much of what’s presented by the current crop of people at our local newspaper they do one thing that Bridgewater’s Star(ved for real news) Advertiser apparently refuses to do- attribute their press release rewrites.

One of the staples of a daily “newspaper of record” is the rewritten press release, especially those emanating from local and state government public information offices.

Editors, usually those on the “night shift” of larger papers, avoid plopping the copy directly in their news hole- the place left for news when the predetermined advertising is laid out.

In order to avoid charges of plagiarism they re-write the releases shifting the sentence constructions and using other wordsmithing techniques.

But while you’ll always find the words “according to a county release” or another appropriate credit in our local Kaua`i newspaper, when the identical release is rewritten in the Honolulu paper that attribution is never to be found.

Plagiarism has become a serious problem at many publications of late. The NY Times Jason Blair case and other have spurred policies that are designed to eliminate not just the lack of attribution but much more serious lapses.

Are we really that far removed from the mainland that the Honolulu daily thinks it doesn’t have to join the 21st century when it comes to accuracy and full disclosure?

Apparently the answer is yes, as long as the notoriously thin-skinned throwback Bridgewater is in charge.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't call me "prolific".

I'd just say that our local newspapers don't provide much on this island and I'm trying to help a few businesses out while having my little say in the "Cyberworld".

I wish more folks would start blogging as I'm a firm believer in the more information that is out there... the better for everyone.

It's up to folks to distinguish the good blogs from the bad blogs... but I think we should all have a say in the world.