New Social Issues- Online Plagiarism
On July 9th, 2009 Ian Shapira wrote a profile for the Washington Post about Anne Loehr, a “Washington-based ‘business coach’...who charges her early-Gen-X/Boomer clients anywhere from $500 to $2,500 to explain how the millennial generation behaves in the workplace.” 1 Shapira conducted interviews and attended Loehr’s two-hour “Get Wise with Gen Ys” session, which he then recorded. After the reporting, Shapira spent another full day writing his 1500-word story. The same day Shapira’s story was featured in the Washington Post, Gawker blogged about it on their website. Gawker’s story “begins by telling its readers to ‘Meet Anne Loehr’” with a link to Shapira’s story but no “direct mention of The Post.” The story then “condenses her biography: Loehr is 44. She spent the entire decade of the 90s running hotel and safari operations in Kenya.” Shapira got that information through an “hour plus phone call with Loehr, and 3,000 words of notes.” Hamilton Nolan, the Gawker writer who blogged about Shapira wrote the whole story in “a half-hour to a hour.” 2
The English Dictionary defines plagiarism as “the practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own.” 3 We accepted this definition and felt confident we could identify plagiarism in traditional, labor intensive approaches to scholarship. However, in the above example, did Gawker plagiarize? Did Hamilton Nolan intentionally take Shapira’s “work or ideas,” and “pass them off as his own?” Would we be answering these questions differently, if Nolan worked for the New York Times and printed half of Shapira’s story in the paper on July 10th? Should the rules be different, depending on the medium of gathering materials of publication? Should there be, or could there be a standard attribution procedure for all media?
Much of how we learn and communicate is fast-paced and digital. The public,...