Reporter retracted two stories today that it said had been partly plagiarized, according to a statement published in this week’s issue and signed by the magazine’s full Editorial Board. The magazine fired the story’s author, and the section editors responsible for the stories are resigning.
(Full disclosure: I am employed by Reporter as a freelance writer. I worked for the magazine in several capacities since 2007. Infinity Quad is in no way affiliated with Reporter.)
Close on the heels of a debacle ending in censorship, the magazine discovered text which had apparently been copied on a story profiling SportsZone — RIT’s TV sports news program. The discovery came after SportsZone contacted the story’s author, Celine Anderson, a first year journalism student, to complain, according to Alex Rogala, Reporter editor in chief.
Anderson in turn came to the magazine’s editors with the complaint, said Rogala, which is when Reporter discovered the full extent of the problem.
I asked Anderson to comment by phone earlier this evening, but she hasn’t yet.
The story, which is no longer available on Reporter‘s website but is available elsewhere, contains phrases that are nearly identical to a University News story, SportsZone‘s website and a web page for the College Television Awards, according to the statement and my own checks.
In the image below, I’ve highlighted the sections of text which match three or more words from those sources. I’ve blacked out all but a paragraph to avoid infringing copyright. And I’ve included relevant sections from a matched page, which I recommend reading in full.
University News story
SportsZone “History” page
“About The College Television Awards” page
No apparent match
Much of the text that is not a direct match closely paraphrases the matched pages, and most of it is promotional. The four quotes from SportsZone employees in the story do not match any page I could find. Other than the quotes, nothing in the profile is attributed to a source.
After looking at the rest of the writer’s work, the magazine discovered a second story, a guide to “manscaping” for women, also containing what it says was plagiarized content.
When senior editors confronted Anderson, Rogala said, she told them that she had read the pages, but hadn’t tried to copy the text wholesale.
“I believe she said she was unaware it was plagiarism,” said Rogala in a phone interview.
In addition to the accusation of plagiarism, the statement says the SportsZone profile contained a factual error and a misspelled name. It apologizes for breaching reader trust and promises significant change in how the magazine does business.
The magazine’s sports editor, Jeff McKinzie, who edited the profile, and leisure editor, Evan Williams, who edited the manscaping guide, plan to resign as soon as replacements can be found. The magazine’s first choice was to stand by them, said Rogala, but they chose to resign for their own reasons.
“I’m not comfortable putting the blame on one person,” said Rogala. “It was a failure of the entire [editorial] chain.”
Rogala hopes to fix that failure, so a mistake like this doesn’t happen again.