Congratulations to Francine Milford, “Sun Correspondent” who today helps continue Sun Media Group’s tradition of filling its pages with plagiarized material. The Reiki Master and inventor of Tuning Fork Therapy -- turned journalist -- has raised the bar for "stoopid" reporting: her plagiarism is combined with her naïve promotion of a dentist whose practices have put his license at risk and who is facing substantial fines and professional probation from the state's Board of Dentistry.
We’ll start with the plagiarism.
Milford’s 20-incher on page 11 of today’s local section, “Area dentist hopes to improve quality of life,” is a pastiche of dentist Joseph A. Gaeta Jr.’s own Web sites and chunks of material that appear in scores – hundreds, actually – of other practitioners’ vanity sites.
Using the pre-written material is plagiarism because Milford, a licensed massage therapist who offers Bamboo Chair Massage when she’s not doing journalism, copies and presents the words of others as her own – her byline alone with no attribution, no credit, no quotation marks, no acknowledgement.
Through a combination of state-of-the-art technology and treatment plans, Gaeta preserves healthy teeth and gums, alleviates oral discomfort and improves the appearance of smiles on a daily basis. He has applied his unique blend of artistic and technical skills to produce durable and aesthetic results in thousands of patients.
Search using any key phrase in the paragraph and Google coughs up 380 occurrences on the Web – only the names change to accommodate specific practices, which range from Los Angeles to New York and seem to appear in most if not all 50 states. With that number and range, the statement comes close to being an industry standard. Milford, however, claims she wrote it when she hands it in to her editors without quote marks, attribution, or a source other than her own name on the article.
Sun Correspondent-Reiki Master-Tuning Fork Therapist Milford presents this article as an interview she conducted with the dentist, ostensibly eliciting this personal anecdote from Gaeta:
Before I became a dentist, I had observed my grandparents in their twilight years and specifically the impact that failing teeth had on them. Their quality of life had been diminished and there was a constant complaint of discomfort. Failing dental health affected their self image; it limited their diet and the basic ability to chew.
Compare that with a Web site called Imagine Your Smile where a testimonial by John C. of St. Paul MN posted two years ago that goes like this:
I had observed my parents and grandparents in their twilight years and specifically the impact of failing teeth. In each case, the quality of life had been diminished. Failing dental health affected their self image; it limited their diet and the basic ability to chew. Also, there was a constant complaint of discomfort ...
Actually, it's unlikely Milford stole the testimonial from “Imagine Your Smile” because Gaeta himself had already plagiarized the material and posted it on a free, self-publishing vanity service called PRLog just this past March.
Milford’s plagiarism isn’t her only failure as a journalist. She didn’t take a peek at Florida Department of Health’s Web site and check Gaeta’s status with the state. If she had, she would have found six administrative complaints and four disciplinary actions -- and the threat of additional sanctions -- lodged against Joseph A. Gaeta Jr. D.D.S.
Gaeta's most recent discipline stems from a 2003 patient complaint described in the disciplinary section of the minutes of the Board of Dentistry’s July 31, 2009 meeting. In this case, Gaeta is accused of failing to meet “minimum standards in diagnosis and treatment” and failing “to keep written dental records” that would justify a specific course of treatment.
The Board of Dentistry’s hearing officer that day recommended a $20,000 fine and a 30-day license suspension, during which time Gaeta could not practice dentistry. The hearing officer also recommended five years professional probation, a two-year remedial education course, and continuing education credits every year for the rest of the life of his practice.
In its final decision, the disciplinary board moderated the recommendation to a reprimand, $5,000 fine and a 30-day license suspension. It ordered Gaeta to take and pass a laws-and-rules exam within one year of the board’s final order. It ordered him to complete a two-year, comprehensive dentistry course within 36 months and remain on probation until this is done. In addition, Gaeta must also complete continuing education credits annually for the next four years. And finally, he has to reimburse the board within three years for the $40,000 it is costing the state to investigate, prosecute, and oversee his case until it closes.
The most recent communication from the state to the public about this dentist occurred just four weeks ago. On April 26, the board posted notice that Gaeta failed to pay the $5,000 fine and now is seeking “one or more” of several actions that include permanent revocation or suspension of practice, restriction of practice, an administrative fine, reprimand, probation, or “other corrective actions,” such as remedial education.
Milford has an obligation to readers, editors and journalism’s professional standards to report these charges instead of simply promoting Gaeta’s practice expansion as the next best thing to Color Therapy. She has an obligation to ask if his sudden affailiation with Alan Devos' dental practice (Devos will be Gaeta's "associate," Milford writes) has anything to do with a state requirement for professional supervision.
** The link seems to not work. Here's a copy of the page at the DOH Website, which is availble by clicking on the dentist's information card at that site.