The Paper Market

Friday, November 28, 2008


Term papers don't write themselves. Most college students pour hours of work into finding sources, crafting thesis statements and writing drafts. But some don't – they pay people to write papers for them. Author Nick Mamatas was a paper-writer-for-hire, and has few regrets about taking money from cheaters.
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Comments [68]

Jerry from London

Incidentally, has anyone seen this site Is this a legitimate service or would I end up being booted out of college for cheating?

Dec. 29 2012 06:09 AM

You can say that again.

Jul. 11 2009 02:45 PM
G Barr from Oklahoma

Nick Mamatis is hilarously jaded and just like he summed up Edgar Allen Poe's work, "some motherfuckers just have it coming".

Jan. 12 2009 05:18 PM

I always thought about selling term papers where each one would contain one subtle error that would be immediately obvious to a specialist but not be caught by the students. I would have depended on factual errors or mis-interpretations of texts that any Ph.D. student would have read.

I guess this would be the equivalent turning in the clients for cheating but much more subversively.

Dec. 24 2008 01:26 PM

Wow. Lots of smart people here. Can someone please write me a term paper?

I have a choice of two topics:
Bob Garfield: A Profile in Fake Snarky Righteous Indignation, or
NPR: The Cliffs Notes Approach to News and Culture

Due Monday. Thanks

Dec. 16 2008 05:00 PM
Bob Mueller from Wisconsin

As a career tech writer penned up in a cube for lo these many years, the idea of writing term papers (at home!) is not without charm. Besides, tech writing has it's own certain level of word-whorishness, eh Garfield? Not all of us writers are media mavens after all; some are digging trenches to pay bills.

Who am I kidding? It's really not for me, for just about the same reasons a career in politics probably isn't for me either.

Cheating? Politics? Could there be a link here...?

Dec. 05 2008 05:26 PM
Bob Garfield

There are bigger issues than bullying, murder and suicide, too. Like war and bioterrorism and global warming. So we shouldn't then worry about bullying, murder and suicide?

All issues must be examined unto themselves; comparing them to larger issues is a non-argument. In fact, it's ridiculous.

Bob Garfield

Dec. 05 2008 03:27 PM
Allyson from Colorado

even though from my point-of-view i wouldnt agree with doing this, he does make a good point. college is tough and if someone wants to pay someone else for doing an assignment, i dont see any mistakes here. we have bigger issues to worry about: like drugs, bullying, murder, suicide...we need to pick what is really important here. Professors tell you all the time that they know how hard it is and blahblahblah, but they still give you the "im up until 4 in the morning" papers, and most college kids work. 24 hours, 48 hours, and 72 hours is just not enough time to finish papers....and if college professors actually "understood" us, they would have a little lineancy towards us. im not a fan of being the same, so i write my own papers. if a guy wants to make a living by writing papers to help other people, leave him alone. some kids just are plain lazy, i understand; but like i said, there are bigger issues to worry about.

Dec. 04 2008 10:42 AM
Juan Martinez

to make the story short after listening to this recording, from my personal opinion this shows lazyness from the student point of view and the eagerness of making money of a person whom way through college is by buyong his way through it. Now a day is so easy to get information of papers that are posted online yet technology is smart enough to detect if cheating is being performed. just like the copyright law.

Dec. 04 2008 03:10 AM
Nader Omar --- MCM 101

So paying someone to do the work for you is right? Well it isn't "right" but that doesn't mean that and cheating in general isn't common. I mean seriously what student doesn't cheat? I admit that this is unethical in some ways but I really do think that the interview overblows this matter quite a bit.

That saying it seems that schools are catching up with such methods as publishing papers on a site database to find matches, etc.

Dec. 04 2008 02:33 AM
Corinne Meyerson

I cannot help but laugh when listening to this interview. One of my father's best friends wrote papers for others in college and did extremely well. If people are willing to be dumb enough to pay someone to write their paper than why not let them? It is the client that is ending up worse in the end and I believe that Nick is exactly right in saying that karma will eventually come back to those people. It is a free country, so what's the big deal if some idiot cannot write their own paper that someone else does it? As long as my morals never sink that low than who cares what other people are doing.

Dec. 03 2008 07:20 PM
Chess from Encinitas, CA

The issues and topics have wandered from the writing and buying of term papers to discusions on the merits of prostitution, and whether or not 9/11 occurred as it appeared (no conspiracy). As a high school teacher who works with 200 or so students annually, I can agree with the many posts the express concerns about the qualifications of those who intend to or in fact do attend institutions of higher education. Colleges and the government relish standardized testing as its measurement for qualification. From NCLB to SAT/ACT exams and the myriad of mind-numbing state assessments, students are pigeonholed into hoop-jumping and bubble-filling. This allows the administrative sort to demonstrate some method of proof (i.e. Mugwump High School improved their API score, therefore they are a better school than before). The end game then becomes a prattling over disaggregating data and students who master "multiple guessing" rather than insightful reflection and commentary. And, with assistance from and insistence of mother and father, many who truly should not attend University, feel that they have no other means than to do so. Purposeful and powerful writing is a skill, and as such, it must be practiced and honed until that skill is both useful and meaningful. Sadly, but realistically, not every little bumkin has either the tools or the determination to master these skills. Perhaps there other mechanisms for demonstrating intellect that might be explored.

Dec. 03 2008 06:28 PM
Matt from Arlington, Virginia

I especially liked the anecdote of one of his girlfriends trying to write a five pager about lease laws in dog parks instead of filling five pages. Maybe if the assignment or the underlying class cut through the bull and introduced the student some real social scientific controversy where the answers as more about building a unique understanding and new perspective instead of filling pages then Mr. Mamatas freelance work would be less in demand and less of an option students. Actually teaching the cutting edge of academic debates engages students like no other teaching technique. If most university instructors and professors did not abdicate their ethical requirements of introducing students to the cutting edge of academic research then they should not act so righteous when students easily shed the ethics of paper writing.

Dec. 03 2008 01:19 PM
Matt from Arlington, Virginia

Last week OTM reported that Most studies published in scientific journals, it turns out, are either exaggerated or wrong. According to epidemiologist John Ionnidis, editors of science journals are no different than everyone else in media. Sensationalism sells!

Why should we expect students trying to break into the world of academic research not to know the rules of the game when they are fulfilling graduation requirements if researchers readily disregard academic writing standards when publishing in the top scientific journals?

If training in an academic discipline is at all like Thomas Kuhn's described Normal Science ... basically prepunched puzzle solving why are we applying the highest scientific standards to what is operationally an advanced version of monkey see, monkey do?

If Rob likes the marketplace model so much, then he should deal with the reality that model. According to the Smart Set story, Mamatas freed up at least one student to do original ground breaking research. Much in the same way the Mamatas used the term paper writing gig to support his other work that student contributed to human knowledge by dispensing with a poetry paper to better study Chemistry.

Dec. 03 2008 01:18 PM
Rob Warmowski from Chicago


I have to thank you. Your defense of the marketplace that serves the ethical and academic inadequacies of academic frauds is as thrilling an example of late-stage capitalism apologia as I have ever seen, and I will treasure it for a long time.

What makes your comments so perfectly emblematic of our kleptocratic era is the free-market fundamentalist logic that shines through each notion you present. You:

- state the marketing terminology of the marketplace should be disregarded, in a way that implies, falsely, it was ever regarded by anyone in that market in the first place.

- acknowledge ethical relativism as a prerequisite of the marketplace's function.

- express disdain for the supplier/writer of the fraudulent doctoral thesis as if this most egregious academic corruption was a function of the thesis being written, as opposed to a consequence of it being not written by the doctoral candidate.

- close with a diagnosis of ethical equivalence, but in the end issue the greater rebuke (and a chiding on the basis of good business!) to the abused writers -- for the unpardonable sin of being uppity!

Astonishing. The cover this attitude provides for the corrupted, wealthy frauds found on campus, Wall Street and everywhere in between has a truly great resonance in this post-bailout season. Thanks for showing it here.

Dec. 03 2008 12:38 AM
Lisa from Arizona

I had dated a broker of a "model paper" company so I listened intently to the interview. I really learned nothing new. This company specialized in writing papers for wealthy Arab clients in American and British schools. Clients were always trying to get a deal or to get out of paying. There was only one writer who decided to mess with a client and he was promptly fired. Saying that a paper is only to be used for research purposes is merely a legal loophole and is not to be believed by the writer, the broker, or the student. The clients were always treated with courtesy and respect. To my knowledge, none of them were ever referred to as a "dumb" client. Sometimes the specific grades were referred to -- "This only needs to be a C paper." It was generally the smarter clients who realized their limited writing capabilities and that a good paper might stand out.

I had no problem with the clients who requested one paper for a particularly hard class, but the majority of students were repeat customers who referred other clients and would often submit an entire syllabus. I was dismayed that the writers even wrote a doctoral thesis.

Everyone involved in this operation is in a morally gray area, but to look down and try to harm the clients is both wrong and economically stupid.

Dec. 02 2008 04:16 PM
Robert Hudson from Alameda, CA

Sorry, but just to prove I do proof-read my work (albeit sometimes after posting) I have to correct the first line of my second paragraph in the last post to read "too big" instead of "to big." Thank you! (As a dedicated English tutor I could not let that one slip by...)

Dec. 02 2008 09:44 AM
Robert Hudson from Alameda, CA

Just to say again, I do not at all condemn Nick Mamatas for his work in penning papers for overworked students. I do, however, feel deep sympathy for instructors such as K. Lewis, and I agree that a good system would be to have a way to track a particular student's progress in writing skills. This would make cheating more apparent.

The problem that I don't see anyone addressing here, perhaps because it just seems to big to even comment on, is that colleges are failing at the task of adequately providing a place to learn. Instead of teaching they are providing hoops for students to jump through, and in my opinion the students are not getting any fitter from that activity. David made some very good points about how colleges accepting unqualified students is bad for everyone. The problem is that we have set colleges up as the ultimate gateway to all livelihoods, and yet we forget that colleges can be self-interested and can cheat students of the education they deserve. What recourse do students have when they are being cheated by their educators? They respond by paying people like Nick Mamatas. Why can't we see this? Are we so biased we cannot accept that colleges can also fail?!

Dec. 02 2008 09:29 AM
William T

The thing about whores is that lots of them aren't doing it willingly, but are victimized by their pimps or easily exploited thanks to poverty and drug addiction. Whores are often victims; Garfield thinks "whore" is some sort of insult. Why not just call Mamatas a "cripple" instead?

Dec. 02 2008 01:37 AM
Tim Lieder from New York

Of course, Bob Garfield also forgot to name the two books that Mamatas has out. Those are Move Underground and Under My Roof. He has other works out there too but those are the ones he is more prone to promoting.

And his blog is hilarious. You can google it yourself.

As far as stabbing students in the back, I believe that most term paper writers for hire are upfront about stabbing our clients in the front. As long as they pay, there's nothing to worry about. Repeat business and referrals are good to us. If they don't pay, they will see their names posted on blogs and their email correspondence forwarded to everyone that can influence their scholastic careers.

The sad part of this equation is the fact that some of these students are so stupid that they don't realize that important part of the transaction until they try to screw us over.

As far as Nick's voice getting more high pitched and defensive - dream on people. Nick maintained an amused calm throughout the interview. Bob Garfield got a bit high strung when Nick refused to break down weeping at his terrible sins, but what can he do? He's an NPR personality; they are supposed to be self-righteous.

Dec. 02 2008 01:33 AM
David from San Francisco, CA

Mamatas compared term-paper writing with tobacco advertising. Not a bad comparison. Tobacco used normally according to its intended purpose harms the user and also possibly others. I hope Bob will be as harsh in interviewing people who write and design tobacco advertising campaigns as he was on Mamatas. [Bob, how have you handled those practitioners in your work at Ad Age?] Honest prostitutes, on the other hand, may do something regarded as sleazy but at least the contracted-for services are delivered safely (barring stupid neglect or accidental breakage of condoms) without as drastic a form of injury to client health or the system of certifying and credentialing professionals as tobacco advertisers or term-paper writers.

Dec. 01 2008 10:51 PM
David from San Francisco, CA

2. To teach writing term papers, Mamatas suggests in his Smart Set article, it'd be very helpful to show model term papers to the ignorant. This is a simple, compelling point, but when did _you_ ever see a good paper, distributed by a teacher, as a model?

3. When I read Mamatas' article, I was reminded of the sad article "In the basement of the ivory tower" in The Atlantic in June:
The subtitle makes the key point: "The idea that a university education is for everyone is a destructive myth. An instructor at a “college of last resort” explains why." Some of the students were simply not equipped to perform in a freshman comp class and their time and the instructor's time was being wasted, painfully and hurtfully.

Dec. 01 2008 10:39 PM
David from San Francisco, CA

The interview was effective in highlighting the sleaze but at the expense of some good points in the Smart Set article about systemic problems; the hostility of the interview surfaced the behavior of Mamatas that was not in his article, the torpedoing of clients who mistreated him. Whoa! Nice job in that respect, Bob. There's honest whorishness (a defensible way to make a living we should think about dispassionately on AIDS Day) and then there's what Mamatas did!

Three points about writing papers: the importance of revision , the importance of showing model papers and a question of who should be in college.
1. I learned to write at a fancy private school in New York City. Even the fair to poor students learned, and one of the lesser students even went on to win a Pulitzer Prize. I also TA'd and graded undergrad and grad student essays. To teach writing, teach revision. Hand back papers that are marked up and make them fix it. This would reduce the value of cheating, I believe, and thus the incidence. It is labor-intensive but at least it's of non-negative value.
The other two points are in the next post.

Dec. 01 2008 10:39 PM
Harold Pomeroy from chesham station, NH

To make an interview interesting, sometimes the host has to challenge the guest to get them talking. I could hear Mamatas getting more agitated and talking faster through the interview. The first time I heard the show I couldn't understand him, because I was running a band saw, and couldn't hear so well, and his speech sped up through the interview. The second time, I listened for Bob's challenges, and to hear Matamas getting defensive.
Arguing the 9/11 conspiracy stuff is fun, but not relevant. Someday I hope to meet a 9/11 conspiracy theorist that believes in only one conspiracy.

Dec. 01 2008 10:34 PM
Bob Garfield

To Jason Jensen:
No there aren't. Planes flew into buildings in front of thousands of eyewitnesses. Looking for US-govt co-spirators is tinfoil hat stuff, and will always be regarded as such on OTM as long as I have any influence on the program whatsoever.

Dec. 01 2008 08:59 PM
Jason Jensen from Brattleboro, VT


The conversation directly compared term paper plagiarism to Neo-Naziism, tobacco advertisements, and 'those bumper stickers that say 9/11 was an inside job'. Bob Garfield, the host, then attacked those unrelated premises as 'sleazy' and the like in a loquacious burst of negativity.

There are substantive reasons for a renewed conversation about what 9/11 was and wasn't, given the horrifying, brutal decline of the United States since then.

Dec. 01 2008 08:14 PM
K. Lewis from San Diego, CA

And I meant "learn more about his experiences" - obviously my proofreading skills still need more work.

Dec. 01 2008 07:09 PM
K. Lewis from San Diego, CA

As a former grad student/instructor this issue was one that depressed me. Most instructors don't have the time or resources to turn into CSI Univ. on papers in question, or have every student come in for a discussion. Especially when some class sizes number nearer 100 than 30. My hope is that eventually schools will be able to afford the computer resources and software that will allow them to keep all of a student's papers on hand and cross check them. Frankly I'd see this as something that would help students track their own improvement. Just as troubling to me is the idea that students who do improve may then be suspected of using writing that is not their own.

Those who take Garfield to task are missing the point a bit - if this interview had been conducted by a teacher you'd have seen similar questions, and possibly a lot more annoyance. What I was still wanting to hear more of was how Mamatas as a writer really felt about people plaigarizing his work - because that's actually what's happening when a student uses his work without attribution.

In his article Mamatas writes "The students aren't only cheating themselves. They are being cheated by the schools that take tuition and give nothing in exchange." That seems to me to be Mamatas the former student writing, and makes me want to lean more about his experiences.

Dec. 01 2008 07:06 PM
William T

Re #35

A decade ago, Boston University did sue a number of term paper companies, citing of all things the RICO and making the same claims MJ did in his or her comment. The suit was dismissed because the legal argument was considered ludicrous. (One can Google for "Boston University" "term paper lawsuit".)

Not quite so ludicrous as the 9/11 nuts, who now seem to think that Garfield or NPR compared Mamatas to 9/11 Deniers (I won't call them "Truth" activists), instead of realizing that Mamatas himself compared the term paper industry to the same, but ludicrous enough.

Dec. 01 2008 10:59 AM
Evan from Santa Monica, California

Having been a Teaching Assistant and a Lecturer for some time, I encountered many cases of plagiarism. Besides the anger and betrayal I felt at a student that I was trying hard to educate not write a paper themselves, I mostly felt insulted--insulted because most students don't even try hard when they cheat. I have received papers simply copy and pasted from websites--even examples where the student left the website's URL in the paper they handed in to me.

Had one of my students gone to a "model essay" writer like Mr. Mamatas and edited it to try to match their own writing style, I can't say that I would have felt much better, but I at least could have seen that they put in *some* effort in cheating.

Dec. 01 2008 10:56 AM
Jack Heller from Huntington, Indiana

I am a professor of English literature and of freshman composition. Last spring, I discovered that an essay submitted to my class was bought from Obviously, some students cheat, and obviously, some do so by wasting their money on term paper mills. I would like for my students to hear this interview--to hear Mamatas say that he has "stabbed" some of his customers in the back, and to hear him talking about the students who fail anyway despite using his services. Why should someone pay $600 for an F when it can be had for free--by doing nothing?

Dec. 01 2008 10:18 AM
Robert Hudson from Alameda, CA

Here is where we are all losing touch with reality: Students PAY for their education. They are being wronged when they are not being taught. I don't care about the reputation of any university who cannot fulfill their legally binding contract to teach those who they enroll. Essays, tests, etc, are merely ways of assessing how well the school is doing in training students. Who the student is when they get out of school may not be who they seemed to be, based only on their grades.

Einstein never excelled in mathematics in school until much later in his life. This was not a failing of his, but the failings of his schools. When a student cannot write, that student should be taught to write. When they cheat it should be obvious, because (as Mr. Mamatas said) the teacher should have taken the time to interview each student regarding their personal papers. If teachers cannot do this then the university is the one failing, not the students who are forking over hard-earned cash for a slim chance at a future in life.

Dec. 01 2008 07:48 AM
Robert Hudson from Alameda, CA

MJ, I am sorry to make this personal, but you are going down the road that John Adams did with his Alien and Sedition Acts. Universities have absolutely no right to sue anyone who damages their reputation for precisely the reasons a university SHOULD have their reputations damaged. Any university that is failing to TEACH students (since teaching is, after all, the only reason a university is in business) should have their reputations damaged by forcing students to cheat through poor teaching methods.

Dec. 01 2008 07:48 AM
MJ from Boston, MA

I have always felt there was room here for this kind of speech to be regulated (and perhaps outlawed), since it is "commercial" speech, and the US Supreme Court has consistently ruled that commercial speech is different from religious speech, political speech, etc.

I would think, for example, that universities could/should bring a collective damage suit against these brokers for encouraging behavior that has the potential to destroy the universities' reputations (and there is, after all, a lot of money associated with those reputations). When a kid graduates from X University and goes out into the world, he or she stands as an example of what X University is capable of producing. Now of course, EVERY school has its share of duds out there... but shouldn't a company that encourages and facilitates the creation of duds, actively undermining anything the university is attempting to do with regard to the "product" it is trying to create, be subject to some form of commercial regulation?

Dec. 01 2008 07:05 AM
Robert Hudson from Alameda, CA

Rich students have certainly long taken advantage of having the extensive help of others for most of the history of our country. Now that poorer students can take advantage of the same loophole we are disgusted with them. Well I am disgusted with us. I am disgusted with our society for being unable to find new ways to allow students to demonstrate their true worth. Essay skills do very few of us any good in "real life," and I say this as someone who has made money with my ability to write essays by tutoring and mentoring others in English. If we cannot find more varied ways to allow students at universities, colleges, and even high schools to shine, then they deserve to cheat us out of our own stupidity. We, the administration, are only failing ourselves!

Dec. 01 2008 07:04 AM
Robert Hudson from Alameda, CA

The interviewer was unreasonably negative in his reactions to his subject. Nick Mamatas was a worthy candidate for interview and would almost certainly have had much to say about the content of the human soul, had Mr. Garfield not focused so much on his personal disgust for his "behavior." I have unabashed convictions on the subject matter of this interview. What this interview missed (and I blame this oversight on both participants) was any real discussion of WHY there is a market for model term papers in the first place. We have obviously become overly dependent on outdated forms in our education in this country. I am an outstanding essay writer and I have time and time again been able to pass classes on my essay writing ability alone. I see this to be a failing of the current system. When I can pass a class I know little about simply because I have the natural ability to be more articulate than my classmates, something is seriously wrong with our educational system. I don't blame students for taking advantage of Nick Mamatas's services at all, when they are part of an inherently flawed system which is there to judge them and weed many of them out for failure.

Dec. 01 2008 07:03 AM
Bill Marshall

I was saddened to hear that Mr. Mamatas was compared to "9-11 was an inside job" bumper stickers. I guess the Ford Foundation and The Rockefeller Foundation frowns on alternative media. I am not willing to support the phony-left any longer or any paid shills, for that matter. People are starving for real truth. Do people think that what has been happening lately with the economy, India, Obama and Brzezinski are all coincidental? Wake up people and say no to the global fascist prison. Our whole system is a fraud that can be likened to good cop-bad cop.

Whatever, mock on.

Dec. 01 2008 06:47 AM
Harry Connolly from Seattle, WA

Well, Bob Garfield promised that I could find 90% of the comments here expressing outrage, but no. Are you sure this page is on the internet? Where are the ZOMG! CHEATERS!1!-types?

Honestly, how is this a worthwhile story? Colleges bring in students who aren't qualified because the students have tuition money. Those students cheat to keep up. Imagine my expression of shock.

And yeah, Mr. Mamatas "drew focus on himself by publishing his piece" but we know his real crime was in not expressing shame or remorse. Mr. Garfield puffed himself up with a display of outrage worthy of the old Sally Jesse Raphael show, but he didn't have the instinct or the interest to address any of the intriguing aspects of the article he so helpfully links above. Why are these people being asked to write a term paper when they don't know what a term paper is? Why are they even in college?

Nasal outrage, using words like "whorish" and telling Mr. Mamatas he's selling himself for money (How ridiculous! Mr. Garfield, tomorrow morning the vast majority of your listeners will be "selling themselves for money" It's called "working for a living") not to mention snide comments in other stories (such as whether a particular photographer "even knows a line exists") have made Bob Garfield the least interesting, least informative voice on my local station.

Tune it down, Mr. Garfield. If you have information to share, great. If you want to hold up a placard and say "Isn't this outrageous?" get a blog.

Dec. 01 2008 12:19 AM
Rich Ristow from New Jersey

I think complaints about this segment are not only well aired here, but I also think that anybody who has had a problem with "On The Media" should also let the NPR Ombudsman know, too. In theory, the Ombudsman could actually do something about it, like smack Bob Garfield on the knuckles, and chide him for like 15 minutes or so.....

Nov. 30 2008 11:53 PM
Harold Pomeroy from chesham station, NH

I fond the interview with Mamatas entertaining.

The ethics of turning in a bought paper aren't as clear cut, if one considers the people receiving the work. When I was in college, I dealt with some good professors. There were also the drunk egotistical nose picking hacks, who would pontificate in front of a class, giving the same lecture for 20 years. If professors can pretend to read the papers, students ought to be able to pretend to write the papers.

Harold Pomeroy

Nov. 30 2008 10:14 PM
Matthew Trisler from memphis, TN

Hey, Bob? Did Mamatas drop you any hints about where to sign up for this job? It actually sounds kinda fun - especially the part about occasionally undermining someone who was a jerk.

Nov. 30 2008 10:11 PM
Nicholas Liu from Boston

It would be unreasonable to expect a brief interview to be more informative than the article the interview is about, but is it too much to ask that the interview add *something* new? This interview was two parts for-dummies summary and one part interviewer calling the interviewee a whore (!). Thanks for nothing, NPR.

Nov. 30 2008 08:33 PM
Tim Lieder from New York

Oh yeah. SInce the 911truth morons are posting their links

featuring God Laughs When You Die by Michael Boatman, star of Spin City and Arli$$.

Nov. 30 2008 08:22 PM
Tim Lieder from New York

Of course, Bob Garfield feels completely entitled to call Nick Mamatas on his corruption because Bob Garfield is banging from pulpit of superiority. I was inspired to get into the same business by Mamatas' piece and I can see why he's contemptuous of his clients. Whereas some are just overworked and tired, most are morons, as indicated by the fact that many of them try to get out of paying the very person that can sink them.

Of course, it's a rather hypocritical pulpit when it endorses utter crap like Sarah Vowell's histories which are 1 part historical facts and 9 parts Sarah Vowell babbling on and on about her life with such earth shattering revelations as "she had a bad day on 9/11" and "she didn't like Reagan." NPR is encouraging one type of writer that would get an F in any class taught by any reputable professor, yet finds the need to castigate the students that are actually turning in papers that aren't navel gazing.

Nov. 30 2008 08:07 PM
T. McCarthy

Bob: You're entitled to call him on it, and I am entitled to be disappointed by your interview. I wanted to learn more about the phony term paper industry (i.e. get a little unbiased journalism, just the facts). Instead I got a Bill O'Reilly/Sean Hannity style spoon feeding of one guy's moral views. Five -- irretreivable -- minutes I should have spent with my kids. I gave you those five minutes because I thought I might actually learn something new and exciting. Instead you made me more stupid.

Thanks NPR!!!!

Nov. 30 2008 07:41 PM
S Mostica from San Francisco

Bob Garfield's high dudgeon over the enterprise of the paper writer tells volumes of the type of person he is. I wonder if he should continue to suggest to be liberal. He failed to pick up on the very last comment of the paper writer namely that the way professors can combat this subversive trend is to question the student on the content. And thereby lies the almost fatal flaw of higher education in the US. Teachers don't personalize the education of their charges with "face time". The high school and the university have been coopted by the model of industry where numbers of product are goal. Quality of product is secondary. I say this trend of buying term papers should continue until it brings down the current system. Students lack of intellectual honesty
is another indication. Higher education and the society in general do nothing to appreciate the value of learning.

Nov. 30 2008 07:06 PM
William T

The host of this segment, Bob Garfield, appears in the comments to defend his shoddy interview. I guess it must sting, that he predicted that 90% of the commenters would have found his AM talk radio ranting pleasant Thanksgiving listening.

Mamatas indeed went public, but somehow the colleges of the US, which cram students who barely speak English into overcrowded classes and relieve them of their tuition money, are doing so in secret. The two faculty members who have posted here acknowledge that they regularly encounter students who cannot write.

What are people who cannot write doing in college? That is surely the greater crime.

Most of the complaints against this segment seem to involve the pronunciation of the name of the guest which is important enough that some of the people, including one of the professors, misspelled it despite it being correct in the summary of the segment, complaints about the Rush Limbaughian ploy of using term like "whore" (which Bob is silent on, but at least one other guy considers "polite"), and nuts going on about 9/11 conspiracies.

Bob is responsible for two of the three major complaints. I guess you're just being "called on it."

PS: 9/11 attacks were committed by terrorists.

Nov. 30 2008 07:03 PM
Xan Smith from Leawood, KS

As a student I found this incredibly interesting. I've always wanted to hear an interview of someone who is writing the papers simply. I don't feel nervous about it at all because since i love writing i would die before turning in someone else's work as my own.

I would like to be in the 10% who say "right on!" to Mr. Mamatus. These people are putting other people's writing as their own and if they don't use the paper as a model and turn it in as their own it's their own fault for failing because he told their professor. Some might wonder how he might sleep at night but what about the students. What if, twenty years after that they have a job that they attained because of a good grade in a good class that they needed to pass in order to be qualified for that job?

Nov. 30 2008 04:36 PM
Kimbo Tippett from Arizona

I agree with comment [13] by Jason Jensen. Jason, I have witnessed this pattern of subtle, and sometimes not so subtle propaganda placement on NPR over the last few years. Any questioning of the 9/11 Event is the new taboo to be ridiculed and dismissed at every turn with never once a serious look into the reasons behind the questioning. There are an abundance of good reasons to question the official conspiricy theory. Let us hear an unbiased story on the work of David Ray Griffin, Stephen Jones, or Richard Gage on NPR. And Roshan, speaking of science, you should check out:

Nov. 30 2008 04:32 PM
Bob Garfield

Hmm. A common thread: the whole system is corrupt, so why focus on Nick Mamatas?

Answer: Because he drew focus on himself by publishing his piece. Anyway, since when does the corruption of the system excuse or exonerate corrupt behavior? America is awash in guns. Am I excused for shooting someone? The society is hypocritical about drugs. Shall I sell crack pipes in the inner city? No, I have to answer for my conduct.

If Mr. Mamatas thinks a witty confessional somehow cleans the slate of selling cheating supplies to cheaters -- i.e., being a grade-fraud profiteer -- he's entitled. And I am entitled to to call him on it.


Nov. 30 2008 04:25 PM
Rich from Bay Shore, NY

Kudos to Bob for exemplifying professional courtesy in his interview with Nick Mamatas (I personally wanted to kick this presumptuous jerk after the first third of the interview). He allowed Mr. Mamatas to make a case for how he can provide such a service and still sleep at night. He politely said that he disagreed with him and let the any potential customers know, Caveat Emptor.

Nov. 30 2008 04:23 PM
Patrizia DiLucchio from Monterey, CA

Mr. Garfield is certainly hedging his bets here. Just in case his listeners are moved to connect the dots into a different pattern than the one in his head, he reminds us of how we're SUPPOSED to react. This is good journalism?

I don't understand why Nick Mamatas is responsible for the failure of the educational system.

Nov. 30 2008 03:55 PM
Roshan Abraham

I have trouble believing that anyone who believes 9/11 was an inside job finished college without the aid of a term-paper writer. Or at the very least, skipping all science prerequisites.

Nov. 30 2008 12:01 PM

As a college instructor, I am neither shocked by Mr. Mamatis nor interested in getting into the business. Aside from the weird equation of ghost-writing with prostitution courtesy of the host (thanks for reminding me why I typically stop listening to NPR at 10 on Sundays), I was most struck by the contempt that Mamatis has for most of his clients. It was a sneer of intellectual superiority that I find more repellent than the desperation and insecurity that drives many of my students that plagiarize. For every lazy one I catch, I catch three or five that have been horrifically failed by their high schools and are painfully aware that they cannot produce university level work of their own accord. When these students plagiarize, they do not deserve to pass the class, but they do not deserve contempt either.

Nov. 30 2008 10:46 AM
Jason Wagner from Bronx, New York

"The Term Paper Artist," one of Mr. Mamatis's "novels" was first used as a title for a story about a man who sells term papers. But it was written by David Leavitt. I hope OTM was in on the joke.

Nov. 30 2008 10:32 AM
Jason Jensen from Brattleboro, VT

Although the content of the story was indeed revolting in its own right, I was by far most taken aback by the author's willingness to conflate his own work with Neo-Naziism, tobacco advertisements, and the 9/11 Truth Movement. While I certainly side with the author's right to free speech, I found his willingness to conflate his own work with these 'taboos' strange. I, for one, am a highly educated professional and a proud 9/11 Truth activist, and I would NEVER conflate my work with that of a Neo-Nazi or even term paper peddler. How about perhaps reporting on the merits of our movement, instead of using the strange narrative of a term paper hustler to conflate the aims of the 9/11 Truth Movement with Neo-Naziism. Our aims are peace, truth, justice, and ending the failed, brutal 9/11 wars. What, exactly, are the aims of NPR's On the Media?

Nov. 30 2008 09:12 AM
Teighlor Darr from Austin, TX

I appreciate the sort of punk rock philosophy here. We have such a vast selection of frustrations from which to choose, it's preposterous that anyone get their panties in an uproar about Mr. Mamatas and his term paper writing. However, in a stereotypically American fashion, an NPR host has managed to embody the knee jerk shortsightedness that thinking people tend to try and avoid.

Why is this industry so prevalent? Why aren't you asking questions from the bottom-up, instead of looking down your nose at someone whose guerilla social statement (whether intended or not -- but I'm glad he got paid, which is paramount!) can enlighten us all and points precisely at the real issue?

College education has mutated into something far different from its earlier iterations. It's time we start getting honest about that. I think Mr. Mamatas has done so.

Nov. 30 2008 05:23 AM
Tim Lieder from New York

Nick Mamatas is a writer and as a writer he has one overriding ethical stance and that is the importance of a writer being paid for his work.

In a market where the television writers went on strike and ended up with worse contracts, where literary magazines expect you to give you their work for free and where many "writers" are deluded into believing that they are getting anywhere when they get published in non-paying markets, and where companies like Verlag offer to "publish your work for free" (which is a little like offering the dentist the opportunity to fix your teeth for free) Mamatas is a lone voice crying in a wilderness of crap.

The fact of the matter is that MFA programs encourage this kind of highway robbery. College programs can pay awful poets and mediocre writers exhorbitant sums to teach aphorisms like "you should be brave" from the tuition that they take from their students but when it comes to publishing their "esteemed" and "nationally recognized" liteary magazines, these same programs suddenly have absolutely no money to pay the contributors.

Mamatas inspires those of us who have graduated from the MFA writing programs that indeed we can make a living as writers. We might be whores, but at least we aren't the stupid sluts that give away our work for free.

Nov. 30 2008 04:51 AM
Liz from Mountain View, CA

First of all, MA-MA-TAS, not ma-MA-tis. Second of all, Mr. Mamatas wrote a thoughtful, compelling article on the morally complicated world of selling term papers, and he was thanked by being called a whore. That's a nice piece of nuanced journalism right there. I realize that it's impossible to go into an interview without bringing your own bias, but you'd think you were talking to a notorious baby-eater the way you go on about the profound moral failing of being one small cog in a profoundly broken system. I listened because I was interested in hearing more on the subject, but all I got was an earful of your prejudice.

Nov. 30 2008 04:17 AM
Alethea Kontis from Nashville, TN

I, too, was taken aback at the interviewer's casual use of the word "whore." But perhaps that's just my Southern upbringing.

As Mr. Muske stated above, this interview doesn't do Mamatas's Smart Set article justice. For those of you who might have missed the subtle link above (I did), the URL for the article is:

Nov. 30 2008 02:35 AM
Chris Gray from New Haven, CT

Bob seemed to be expressing the rage of listeners such as Ms. Hermsdorfer or Mr. Wood, who see the damage that Mamatas’ employers and clients do .

As a New Havener, I had to come to grips with the issue of what our gunsmiths have been doing since Eli Whitney at Remington, Winchester or Marlin for centuries and I came to realize that if they were paid to make carriage bolts, they would make carriage bolts. The employers and their clients (parents or students) bare the lion’s share of the blame but the whole system thrives on the grinding out of diplomas rather than truly mentoring students.

Mamatas seems to have used the experience to have fun, hone his writing skills and, now, to give voice to an on-going scandal in secondary and higher education If teachers actually knew the students in the seats they could not feel so cheated by the fraud, they would eliminate it by knowing what kind of work to expect from their students.

Besides, after the minions of Yale’s Dr. Milgram asked me electrocute another “subject” for five bucks an hour (just one) when I was sixteen years old, I haven’t much wondered at what might be asked of me by an employer. Some jobs I will take, others not, some I do for a cost and some for free.

Since my last full-time employment was selling the texts (I slipped and first typed “tests”) to Yale students, I’ve met many who “misunderestimate” themselves.

Nov. 30 2008 12:55 AM
Haddayr Copley-Woods from Minneapolis, Minn.

Bob Garfield said he thought the comments online would be a bunch of people saying they felt dirty listening to what Nick did for a living.

Actually, I felt dirty listening to Garfield, who called writing term papers for a living "selling himself for money" (?????) -- calling Nick Mamatas a whore. What a creepy interview. You took his interesting, nuanced, and intelligent article and turned it into a cartoon.

Also, you consistently mispronounced his name. It wouldn't have been hard to do that basic bit of research, but I guess you were, like half of the students who made up his clientele, too lazy to do it. How do YOU rationalize YOUR behavior?

Nov. 29 2008 09:03 PM
Amelia Gill from Seattle

Just imagine if George W. Bush had gotten his true grades at Yale and Harvard.

Nov. 29 2008 08:10 PM
Dave Baxter

As a current college student, I say good for him. Maybe the root of the problem is these students seeing their parents try to buy their way out of problems and they never learned how to work in the first place. "The world has too many businessmen" and their children are paying attention.

I do feel sorry for the professors whose time is wasted, however I have wasted countless hours due to a professors assignment that they will never look at as their TA grades it anyway.

Stop complaining and look to the source of the problem... The lack of parenting and any sort of family values taught in the HOME.

Nov. 29 2008 05:54 PM
Michael Muske from Tucson, Arizona

Listeners would be well-served by reading Mr. Mamatas' article. It better illuminates the author's feelings on the matter than this short, rather hostile interview does.

I was left with the distinct impression that Mr. Mamatas is just as horrified by the state of higher education in this country as any of the listeners. Indeed, he takes the time to explore the problem in his article.

Nov. 29 2008 05:08 PM
April F. Masten from Long Island, New York

I am a history professor and since few of my 100+ students per semester will ever become historians, I believe it is part of my civic duty to teach them to write. Unfortunately, people like your guest and his clients make a mockery of my profession and my concern for my students. He and his cohort obviously do not have the intelligence or vision to recognize how much of my time they have wasted. It is a horrible disappointment to discover plagiarism or worse to spend an hour or more editing a paper that you come to realize the student did not write. He may be feeling great now that he's quit and can do his own work, but he has stolen forever the hours when I could have been doing mine.

Nov. 29 2008 02:50 PM
Doug Wood from Michigan

I am shocked and outraged! Well not so much shocked as surprised that this is a story. And maybe saddened. Model papers have been around a while. I remember the opportunity to purchase papers form students who had completed the courses I was taking 30 years ago. Then it was marketed to the lazy I suppose. That it rises to the importance of a story today probably speaks to the pressure our students are under to excel. That someone is out there profiting on this culture we have created does not surprise - only disappoints.

Nov. 29 2008 08:45 AM
Sally Hermsdorfer from Memphis TN

My first encounter with "model research papers" was in grad school abut fifteen years ago. Making small talk with a doctoral candidate one afternoon in the library, I asked him what his dissertation was about and he answered, "How the hell should I know? I just ordered it yesterday." Whether he can botch civilization as we know it by being a third-rate historian is debatable. However, in twenty years of teaching I've preached over and over to my own students: how would you like to have your tax return done by an accountant who cheated his way through the CPA course, or your kid's appendix taken out by somebody who cheated her way through med school? Our twenty-somethings have come of age in a culture that accepts and even expects cheating; can we be surprised at unstable marriages, lax ethics in the business world, and sleazy politicians? Your interview didn't just make my skin crawl; its cynicism, and Mamatas' chuckles, filled me with angry despair.

Nov. 29 2008 08:25 AM

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