Sunday, January 17, 2010

Ruppel Steals Copy from the NYT -- or is it AARP? -- a Potpourri of Plagiarism

Mary Kay "I am Meticulous About Naming Sources" Ruppel kicks off Old Word Wolf's belated New Year's edition with a massive dose of plagiarism.

Her plagiarism qualifies as massive because the amount of verbiage she copies forms almost half of her column in this week's Venice Gondolier. Ruppel's cut-and-paste fest seems to have come mainly -- but not wholly -- from the New York Times Dec. 23, 2009 edition where her copy first appears under Reed Abelson's byline. Abelson's fine reporting also serves as Ruppel's "punch line," albeit with a deceptive edit, as we shall demonstrate.

Mary Kay Ruppel presents as her own words: The Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center has earned a reputation as a place where doctors will go to virtually any length and expense to save a patient’s life.

Compare her copy to Reed Abelson’s New York Times story lede: The Ronald Reagan U.C.L.A. Medical Center, one of the nation’s most highly regarded academic hospitals, has earned a reputation as a place where doctors will go to virtually any length and expense to save a patient’s life.

Mary Kay Ruppel's byline announces she wrote: The Dartmouth End of Life Analysis says Medicare pays about $50,000 during a patient’s last six months of care by UCLA.
Reed Abelson, in the NYT: According to Dartmouth, Medicare pays about $50,000 during a patient’s last six months of care by U.C.L.A.

Mary Kay reports to readers: Its doctors say that unless the distinction can be clearly drawn between excellence and excess in medical care, efforts to cut wasteful spending could be "little more than blunt rationing."
Reed Abelson reported it first, but with a difference: he does not provide a direct quote for his speaker -- Mary Kay adds that, for emphasis, we assume: That prospect worried Dr. Rosenthal and his U.C.L. A. colleagues, who say that unless the distinction can be clearly drawn between excellence and excess in medical care, efforts to cut wasteful spending could be little more than blunt rationing.

Mary Kay Ruppel reports as if she read the document herself: UCLA and five other California medical centers recently published their own research results with a striking conclusion: The hospitals that spend the most do save the most lives.

AARP Bulletin also uses Abelson's story, fully attributed and clearly displaying its permission. But at this p0int, AARP editors condense and edit the original to: “Indeed, U.C.L.A. and five other big California medical centers recently published their own results with the striking conclusion: for heart failure patients, the hospitals that spend the most seem to save the most lives.

Ruppel apparently like most of AARP's version, but omits the inconvenient qualifer, the part about heart patients.

So, OWW is left with one question for Ruppel: "Which publication -- NYT or AARP Bulletin -- is your source for this week's plagiarism?"

There's More: Her Source Changes but She's Still Plagiarising ...

In the same column, Mary Kay’s nugget: The current attempt by today’s White House administration to impose more big government on the American people by way of the “single payer option” for health care is as unconstitutional as gun confiscation or the elimination of free speech. . . .

. . . is the Dec. 24, 2009 lede at “News With Views dot com,” a blog run by right-wingnut Phil Hart.

Ruppel pauses her plagiarism long enough to insert a rant aimed at the Florida attorney general, but quickly returns to her source.

Compare Ruppel: The American people are nearly 100-percent illiterate when it comes to constitutional taxation, with Hart: The American people are nearly 100-percent illiterate, at all levels, when it comes to constitutional taxation.

And, for good measure, one more. Ruppel: In fact, most attorneys have never themselves really studied “Constitutional Taxation 101," and Hart: ... first review Constitutional Taxation 101, a course that no lawyer ever took...

Ruppel announces she will forevermore call health care legislation the "Kill Bill," a hip-hop she presents as her own witticism but which is just more of the divisive, debate-stopping nastiness that she copies from the blogosphere. OWW: "Ruppel's Rant," a potpourri of plagiarism.

And Your Name is Spelled ... ?
Pity Dr. Antelman. First they ignore his science. And now a tired reporter misspells his name. It's Seymour, not Semour. And not one "copy editor" questioned the lede or the cutline.


  1. Madam Wolf, how can you so self-assuredly accuse a columnist of plaigerizing? In particular, the story about the Dartmouth Study regarding Late Term Health Care was all over the newspapers and internet. Mary Kay Ruppel's column "Tell Me I'm Dreaming", in which you accused her of being half plaigerized, contained one paragraph (out of 9) about the Ronald Reagan UCLA health care team, and all references to doctors comments were in quotes. Bloggers are quite immune from libel and defamation of character law suits, as they well know, so take liberties about making untrue accusations. I suppose that is why you chose to remain anonymous. Legitimate columnists write unanonymously and take their licks from wannabes like yourself.
    Also Anonymous (you won't publish this)

  2. Hi, Mary Kay – I’m happy to respond to your post.
    1. You rightly note the items we call plagiarism were “all over the newspapers and internet.” But even if the news is engraved on stone tablets and written as contrails in the sky, honest writers acknowledge where they find information that’s not general knowledge.
    2. Even if you had paraphrased gracefully and accurately so whole sentences didn’t appear in your column exactly as the New York Time’s writer’s story, it is still true that the idea, information and conclusions are not your work. You took ideas, information and conclusions from someone who discovered, researched, wrote and published – a lot of work! – to make the words available to you. It’s so easy to say: A story in the New York Times last month by Reed Abelson reports the shocking news that ....
    3. You say “all references to doctors [sic] comments were in quotes.” Double-click on the image of “Tell me [sic] I’m Dreaming” in this blog. The enlargement shows no quotation marks around substantial chunks of material written by others. The only quote marks in this section of your column, apart from punctuating the study’s title, appear around two clauses. The clause in graf 9 distantly attributes the Obama administration, and the clause in graf 10 attributes “its doctors,” meaning every MD and PhD on staff at the medical center? Neither clause’s quote style creates accurate attributions when set against journalism’s general practices or the standards in every first-year college writing course and Florida’s high school language arts classes. Both sets of quotation marks fail to enclose all – or even most -- of the material that the Times reporter wrote.
    4. I’m not a lawyer, but I’m not sure bloggers are in fact “immune from libel and defamation of character law suits [sic]”. That is, I believe if I were to write that someone is murderer, child molester, thief, dead-beat dad or any other of a range of character-damaging things that weren’t true, I believe I could and should be sued. However, it’s also my understanding that the truth is regarded as the fully adequate defense for such public characterizations. (That is, I can write that Charles Manson murdered or Father John J. Geoghan is a convicted child molester because these things are true.) Thus, I can read with my own eyes substantial sections of “Tell me [sic] I’m Dreaming” that (1) are not attributed to their sources; (2) match nearly word-for-word with other writers’ prior publications; (3) express conclusions identical to the thinking of others; and (4) are presented with essentially the same organizational pattern – the order of discussion – as the originals. I believe I tell the truth. If I’m wrong, I will be prompt, sincere and profuse in my apology and retraction, but evidence of my own eyes says I have presented extensive support that important parts of this column meet plagiarism’s definition. By definition, writers who plagiarize are plagiarists. There is no libel.
    5. As for bogging anonymously: Who I am is well known to you and five or six others who occasionally read this blog. I have, as you rightly note, removed my name from the front page where it had been for years because of a recent spate of spam from Anonymouses – certainly not the regulars! -- who have been making it a daily routine to attack me instead of discussing issues. As you see, I’m happy to discuss issues. And, as an aside, it would be petty of me and demeaning to Anonymouses if I posted every evidence they send displaying their intellectual deficiencies and poor writing skills. Scores of posts from one particular IP address would make both a sailor and a grammar-school spelling teacher blush! So, Mary Kay, if you wish to reach me, please e-mail me at . I’ll be happy to respond to your signed request with a curriculum vitae and discuss any issue on your mind. I value your input.