ACES moves forward with efforts to fight plagiarism

July 2, 2013 By Gerri Berendzen Resources

The fight to stop plagiarism and fabrication starts with individuals in the newsroom and, before that, in the classroom.

Where it doesn’t end is with a summit — even though a summit can go a long way toward raising awareness of the problem.

Representatives of 10 journalism organizations and members of a task force that studied the issue since last fall gathered April 5 during the ACES national conference for the National Summit to Fight Plagiarism and Fabrication.

The summit was a success, said ACES President Teresa Schmedding, but it doesn’t end the effort to educate journalists and establish best practices.

Schmedding, who initiated the summit and brought the work groups together to create the e-book “Telling the Truth and Nothing But,” said efforts to combat plagiarism and fabrication are continuing.

First, Schmedding said, attendees need to take the information home. Going forward, she challenged them to write about the summit and e-book in their own publications to help spread the word.

“Let your readers know that you stand for quality and ethical journalism,” she said.

Since the summit, several publications have done just that, including the Daily Herald in Arlington Heights, Ill., and the Columbia Missourian.

ACES also is coordinating with other journalism organizations to spread the word.

Sessions on plagiarism and fabrication will be presented at the 2013 Excellence in Journalism conference, hosted by the Society of Professional Journalists, Radio Television Digital News Association and National Association of Hispanic Journalists, and at this year’s conferences of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, American Society of News Editors, and Journalism and Women Symposium.

ACES also ordered flash drives preloaded with the e-book for the next group of Dow Jones Newspaper Fund interns.

The goal is to move the best practices developed by the summit committees into all newsrooms and communications classrooms.

Those best practices start with attribution, task force members said.

“Tell the audience what you know, how you know,” Henry Fuhrman, assistant managing editor The Los Angeles Times, said during the summit. “Fighting plagiarism is about attribution. The golden rule of attribution is attribute to others as you’d like to be credited for your work.”

Best practices also have to be about how newsrooms respond to acts of plagiarism, task force members said.

The panel proposed a graduated approach to consequences of plagiarism and said it requires a clear and widely disseminated policy.

“No plagiarism is ever intentional according to the perp,” said Nancy Sharkey, a professor of practice in the School of Journalism at the University of Arizona, “so intent is not a helpful factor in response.”

“There are degrees, but there’s no minor plagiarism,” said task force member Steve Buttry, director of community engagement and social media for Digital First Media and Journal Register Co.

Buttry called for news organizations to educate the community about ethics to build trust for the media and for media members to be transparent in their standards.

“Be the voice of originality in the community, not just in the newsroom,” Buttry said.

To spread the word about the task’s force work beyond a one-day summit, Schmedding is collaborating with incoming SPJ president David Cuillier to explore funding options for mounting an annual anti-plagiarism and fabrication month during which all journalism organizations can distribute training materials to their members.

They also hope to create a website devoted to the issue.

And ACES will issue a call for more research on plagiarism and fabrication at the AEJMC conference.

“Research and education are key,” Schmedding said. “We don’t want to just focus on colleges. We want to start with journalism kids in high school to stop bad habits from forming.”

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