Friday, August 8, 2008

Slate's Rosen Uncovers Plagiarism at Texas Paper

Jody Rosen of Slate details in "Dude, You Stole My Article" how a free alternative weekly north of Houston repeatedly plagiarized his work and the work of many other journalists. What started as an examination of Rosen's story that was plagiarized by Mark Williams and published in the Bulletin, grew into an investigation that found dozens of examples of plagiarism since 2005.

The Houston Press interviewed the editor/publisher of the disgraced Bulletin, Mike Ladyman, who defended his paper:

“I wish the whole deal could have been handled more professionally. But I think honestly it wouldn’t have been a story if it was handled professionally,” Ladyman says. If he’d been given more evidence, the story about “the greatest case of plagiarism” (as it’s been labeled) might never have happened, he says.

“The mistake I made was not working fast enough for Jody Rosen and apparently I needed to be punished for it.”

What Ladyman doesn't understand was that to handle it professionally, he would had fired the writer, apologized to Rosen, and not blame him for reporting it out. Then come clean with his readers through a detailed report about the theft in his next issue.

In addition, the Houston Press published Mike Williams' "Open Letter to Jody Rosen", a rambling and incoherent justification of his actions, but quite possibly the only original piece of copy he has written in years.

There are many reasons why Americans mistrust the media. Some see bias, others feel reporters are pushing an agenda, and others just plain don't like us. But the No. 1 reason why journalists suffer a bad reputation is when we are labeled thieves. And make no mistake, whether it's a reporter at the most powerful paper in the world fabricating stories or a writer in a small-town paper creating "stories" mainly through a Google search, all journalists suffer.

Ladyman and Williams would be pitiful if they even deserved our pity. Their serial plagiarism reveal them as the lowest of the low in a noble profession. What makes matters worse is Williams' painful excuse of an apology, which some how tries to come to some kind of rational for his crime. For some reason, he was aghast that Rosen took the time to investigate and report the plagiarism. Obviously, hard journalistic work was something Williams is not familiar with.

In the end, Ladyman is shutting down the Montgomery County Bulletin. I say good riddance.

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