Monday, March 24, 2008

Easter Plagiarism Rises with the Sun

A couple of days ago, on Thursday, March 20, “Journal Correspondent” Jana Lynn Filip gave a historical recap of Easter sunrise services for readers of Lake Placid Journal, a weekly owned by the Dunn-Rankin family. Unlike most reporters, this correspondent disdains telling readers where she acquired her extensive information about the subject. As far as Old Word Wolf can tell, most of it came from Wikipedia. Schools teach that plagiarism occurs not just when a writer steals word-for-word but also when the order of ideas and a uniqueness of expression has been copied. That's what seems to have happened in this case.

Here's a side-by-side comparison, starting with the suspected original.

Wikipedia says: Sunrise service is a worship service on Easter. It takes the place of the Roman Catholic tradition of the Easter Vigil, and is practiced by mainly Prostant churches. The service takes place outdoors, sometimes in a park, and the attendees are seated on outdoor chairs or benches. Many churches in the American South still hold traditional sunrise services in cemeteries as a sign of recognition that Jesus no longer lay in the tomb on Easter morning.

Jana Lyn Filip lightly rewrites but retains her source's order of ideas: A traditional sunrise service usually takes place in the out-of-doors with attendees seated on chairs or makeshift benches, facing to the east. Some churches still hold their sunrise services in cemeteries to signify that Jesus no longer lay in the tomb.

Wikipedia goes on: The service starts early in the morning and is timed so that the attendants can see the sun rise when the service is going. Services usually loosely follows the format of the church's normal service and can include music (hymns or praise band), dramatic scenes and the Easter message.

Jana Lynn Filip dutifully performs a light rewrite and retains the order of ideas: The service normally is timed to take place so the sun rises during the ceremony. A typical sunrise service format includes music and hymnals from the congregation, choior and/or bands and an Easter message.

Wikipedia says: The first Easter Sunrise Service recorded took place in 1732 in the Moravian congregation at Herrnhut in the Upper Lusatian hills of Saxony. After an all-night prayer vigil, the Single Brethren, the unmarried men, of the community, went to the town graveyard, God's Acre, on the Hill above the town, to sing hymns of praise to the Risen Savior. The following year, the whole Congregation joined in the service. Thereafter the "Sunrise Service" spread around the world with the Moravian missionaries. The procession to the graveyard is accompanied by the antiphonal playing of chorales by brass choirs. The most famous Moravian Sunrise Service is the one of the Salem Congregation in what is now Winston-Salem, NC, held since 1772. Thousands of worshippers gather in front of the church and move to the graveyard in reverent procession. The brass choir there numbers some 500 pieces.

Jana Lyn Filip lightly rewrites and retains the order of ideas: Following a format that by some is believed to be the first recorded sunrise service and dating back to 1732, the Morovian service is believed to have originated in Hemnhug, Germany. A group of unwed men, the Single Brethren, of the community went to the hill above their town to the graveyard, called God’s acre. There they sang hymns and meditated to the Risen Savior until daylight. The following year the entire congregation joined them and thereafter the sunrise service has spread around the world.

Today, a most famous sunrise service is held by the Moravians in Winston-Salem, NC. The band of over 500 members gather around 2:00 a.m. and march the streets of town playing music as a reminder of the sunrise service. The chorale played by the band is “Sleepers Wake!.”

Some details of this last paragraph do not appear in the Wikipedia entry. But their very absence begs the question: How did Jana Lynn Filip wake up one sunny morning a week or so ago and know all this neat stuff about what the chorale played? If she read it someplace and didn't tell readers her source, she's guilty of one of journalism's high crimes: plagiarism. And it wouldn't be the first time.

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