Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Plagiarism Redux

DeSoto Sun's local editor, Laura Schmid got taken -- again. More than a dozen writers have submitted plagiarized articles to her over the last couple of years. She dutifully publishes each one of them, and this morning is no exception. But today she adds a twist: instead of just publishing plagiarism, she actively promotes the authors. Here are the facts. First, in her column, Schmid urges readers to buy new books recently published by Arcadian plagiarist Barbara Oehlbeck and another by Arcadian plagiarist Chip Ballard. Then on page 6, Schmid runs an article "provided by" Kristen Spahr, marketing director at the local hospital.

Spahr's hospital promotion piece leads off with a fear-based tear-jerker. The words came not from her heart, but apparently from the Web:

As people grow older, they may suffer through many losses -- a spouse, family members, friends, health, mobility, status, and sometimes respect from others and ultimately respect for themselves.

This sense of loss can be overhwelming as the struggle for control in their lives may seem to be a losing battle.

Growing old does not mean emotional despiar has to be an acceptable condition of life. The good news is this downward spiral is not a necessary part of life, but a treatable condition that can be reverse. The quality of life can be renewed as the feelings of despair and hopelessness are changed to hope, joy and inner peace. Anxiety, depression, lack of motivation and sadness due to grief and loss issues can be minimized or resolved by effective treatment

Spahr fails to acknowledge any source for the wording of "her" article. That leaves Old Word Wolf to assume it might come from or have a mutual source (a brochure?) as a page published by the marketing department at St. Joseph Memorial Hospital, which serves the rural southwest Illinois towns of Carbondale and Murphysboro. (Click on the image for type large enough to compare.) The good sisters at the Catholic community hospital posted news of their senior services program on the Internet last year, and Spahr appears to have simply scooped up their good words -- or used a mutual marketing source -- without so much as a thank-you.

And Schmid, who despite having been burned before, apparently didn't bother with a Google search on the first sentence. If she had, she would have encountered both the duplication and a "teachable moment." That's when she could have explained to the new marketing director that journalism, even small-town journalism that relies on free fillers, requires better than copying from a brochure.

1 comment:

  1. WELCOME BACK, Old Word Wolf. We missed your barks -- and clearly they've resumed their evil ways. Family-based "journalism" in a small town ... you can't help but admire in a perverse way the moxy!