Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Plagiarized "Business Column" Carries Local CPA's By-line

Venice CPA Mark W. Paolillo’s by-line is affixed to a story headlined “Cut taxes and make more money” on page 6 of today’s Venice Gondolier. Everything about the article, from the name of the accountant at the top to the name of the firm – Hough & Co. -- at the bottom, is calculated to deceive readers into thinking Paolillo himself – or at least his firm’s public relations staffer -- produced a timely news item for the benefit of his community.

Not so. Paolillo the "Business Columnist” plagiarized. The story he presents as his own appears word for word at half a dozen other Web sites and has been circulating on the Internet since at least 2003. Paolillo is not the first to slap his by-line on it, but that can’t possibly be the ethical argument a trusted financial adviser would make when telling himself it's OK to take the words someone else wrote and publish them as his own work.*

Here is just a sampling of the easily accessible Web sites using the same copy -- and none of them indicate that Paolillo wrote it, as he claims in the today's newspaper:

1. Back in 2003, the Cherry Hill, N.J. firm of Alloy, Silverstein, Shapiro, Adams, Mulford, Cicalese, Wilson and Co. posted the identical article.

2. Then in 2007, a firm run by David Compton published it in the Meridian (Miss.) Star newspaper.

3. Just last year, in 2009, McNair & Assoc. P.A. of Longwood, Fla., claimed the column for its own.

4. And, apparently dated today, Jan. 20, the Ashland, Va., firm of Marshall D. Campbell, CPA posted the identical item on its Web site.

Actually, this has happened at Paolillo's firm before.

About a year ago, Paolillo's boss, Hough Himself plagiarized by purchasing a ready-made column -- much like a student might buy a college essay -- and published it as his own.

Surely Gondolier editors don't condone students buying pre-written essays and turning them in for a grade. So why should editors enable this grown-up firm of professionals attempting exactly the same thing?

We asked it before and we'll ask it again: When a CPA cheats journalism, what's he going to do with my money?

*So, what do busy bean counters do when they want a newsy little piece in the local paper? They buy an ad. If the publisher's such a good friend that he'll run shop-worn drek for free, maybe he'll offer a break on space rates. At least the item will run with a little flag at the top that says "ADVERTISEMENT." And readers will have no expectation that the bean counters actually wrote it -- that's what they pay ad agencies for.

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