To Catch A Thief

Friday, March 19, 2010


With plagiarism detection software, media organizations can check articles for stolen content before they get published. However, hardly any news organizations actually use the software. The Columbia Journalism Review's Craig Silverman says that it's time for organizations to start investing in these programs to avoid future plagiarism scandals.

Comments [10]


nicely done because when i viewd it i thought that it was a fake media surely i do agree with you on how far you gone keep it in touch

Apr. 01 2011 08:09 AM

I think that if the plagiarism of articles is a big deal, more companies should put these prevention techniques in to play.

Oct. 20 2010 10:17 AM
Chris Gray from New Haven, CT

Yes, Gerri, and besides, we internalize things that we read and admire quite easily, so that it just blurts out naturally. We used to better. Richard Burbage, I think his name was, could see a play one night, write out the script for his actors overnight, they learn it by day while he slept or drank, and by nightfall all, including Burbage, perform virtually the same performance across town.

They did know they were stealing, just didn't care anymore than the generations of "professionals" who skated through grad schools on faked term papers, bribed or blackmailed professors and any other of the epidemic of credential scams that has been going on all this time. Hey, it was no worse than lying on a mortgage application, like the guy said.

Mar. 25 2010 05:20 PM

Please know this comment is not intended to belittle the importance of discouraging plagiarism, but I just want to raise an issue.

I have travelled the backroads of America for nearly 4 decades, and in every rural area there is always one joker who puts a mailbox on top of a high pole with the sign "Air Mail."

I've no doubt that most (if not all) of these jokers arrived at this idea independently. Just as many writers and wags arrive at their ideas independently.

But it must be difficult to be a columnist these days, knowing that every original turn of phrase, every quip, every joke, can quickly be Googled and "unmasked" as plagiarism. I wonder...would even the famed Algonquin Round Table wits be dismayed if they had to Google their bon mots, only to discover that somebody somewhere in the world had already had the same thought?

BTW, I arrived at this independently, even if you end up reading the same or similar thing elsewhere.

Mar. 22 2010 09:43 AM
Erik Filkorn from Richmond, VT

As a publicist, nothing pleases me more than those magic words, "From Staff Reports" and evidence that an editor has pulled directly from one of my releases. Steal my words, please. No credit required. Of course, I'm one of those old fashioned PR guys whe errs on the side of truth in what I put out there.

Mar. 21 2010 09:32 PM

Please keep me anonymous, as I might lose my job for saying this. When I heard the solemn comments on how there was less (if any) plagiarism in academic writing, I had to laugh. Academics are the worst when it comes to plagiarism. Almost all appear to believe that if they use something from the Internet without attribution, that's not stealing. I've worked in academic publishing for more than 20 years, and we commonly see Ph.D.s add multiple paragraphs from other sources to their own works (not to mention tables, figures, graphs, and charts) without so much as a quotation mark. When the theft is uncovered and dealt with, the perpetrator rarely appears to feel any embarrassment, much less remorse. Both "author" and publisher seem more irritated that, having been caught, they must now do the right thing by the actual author. It's abominable. And ubiquitous.

Mar. 21 2010 08:07 PM
Francisco from Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

Plagiarism is a problem because, not only is a theft from the original author and a con on the public, it is also a fraud committed against the plagiarist's employers.

I suspect a reporter gets paid more than a researcher. The reason being that a reporter is both a researcher and a wordsmith. If someone needs to steal other writer's work than they are obviously failing at the latter skill and, therefore, they are conning their employers out of a salary they are not entitled to.

Mar. 21 2010 04:45 PM
Laura Clements from Greendale, WI

As a teacher I just googled portions of the work my students submitted. Caught them easily and for free!

Mar. 21 2010 04:27 PM
Andrew Raybould from Irvington, NY

As a reader, I have reasons to be concerned by plagiarism, beyond a general concern for fairness. When an established or up-and-coming journalist's reputation is boosted by undetected plagiarism, true authors are eclipsed, and I lose both ways: the plagiarist strengthens his access to communications channels, and the plagiarized are shut out. I want everyone's news to come from those journalists who understand the issues, have key insights, ask the right questions and do the hard work, and plagiarism undermines this. It is like corruption: small, individual instances do little substantive harm, but if it becomes systemic, it can destroy the system, and it tends to spread if unchecked. As you have reported, there is something of a crisis in journalism: declining revenues are increasing competition for resources, and at the same time, respect for journalism is declining, so there is increasing pressure towards plagiarism at a time when anything reducing the quality of journalism will be particularly harmful.

Mar. 21 2010 11:53 AM
Barrett T. Clay from Coram NY

I certainly agree that the theft of thought known as plagiarism is a low, despicable and at times criminal act that should not be condoned in the media. But a draconian assault on plagiarism can have consequences far beyond the obvious protection of an original thought. Spider Robinson brilliantly covered this in his Hugo Award winning short story, "Melancholy Elephants". You can find a web copy of this at

Mar. 20 2010 02:56 PM

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