Saturday, January 7, 2012

Plagiarism Infects Medical Tab's Web Edition

Sun Coast Media Group plagiarism has migrated from its print edition to contaminate its Web spawn. Feeling Fit, the Charlotte Sun’s weekly tab conceived to attract pricey ads from doctors and hospitals, was once confined to print. Now, anyone can see it at (no www).

Filling whatever space the ad people didn’t sell, both web and print editions feature local copy. Unfortunately, local copy is frequently plagiarized, and often in some pretty sneaky ways. But that’s not today.

Today’s Sun Coast Media Group plagiarism – Web style – starts with old fashioned cut-and-paste and finishes with a couple of “edits,” which turn out to be about as effective at covering the writer’s plagiarism as shuffling in the sand is at covering a beachcomber’s tracks.

Carren Bersch, “Feeling Fit Correspondent,” is the by-line at the top of the Website article, “Early Detection Key to Treating Peripheral Artery Disease.” For Bersch's benefit, we’ll review two basic concepts.

First, a by-line means the named writer actually wrote everything that doesn’t appear between quotation marks. And, at real newspapers, reporters (or “correspondents”) are obligated (except in extraordinary circumstances) to tell readers exactly where the information comes from, whether it’s a direct quote or a paraphrased summary.(Unless, of course, Bersch is a qualified authority whose training, background and experience people can count on when she claims that peripheral artery disease “can lead to strokes and transient ischemic attacks.” However, absent the letters M.D. after her name, I think we can rule out her actual qualifications to make medical pronouncements.)*

And finally, let’s review the definition of plagiarism. Plagiarism, in fact, does not always have to be the slavish, word-for-word theft of another writer’s copy in order to present it as one’s own, which is the plagiarism method that Carren Bersch uses in the first two paragraphs of the story that she claims to have written. Plagiarism also happens when someone like Bersch copies the order of ideas that another writer uses to organize the original copy. Bersch does this as well. And, finally, plagiarism happens even when the word-idea-and-outline-thief changes a couple of words, creates some elisions, or flips a few expressions. In fact, this latter step is pretty much de facto evidence that the plagiarist was engaged in a willful cover-up of her nasty habit.
*Based on Carren Bersch's performance as a “correspondent,” readers can also rule out her qualification as an honest writer with ethical standards that preclude stealing the work of others and presenting it as her own (and the moxy to take a paycheck for it?)