Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Post Plagiarist Punished

The Pulitzer Prize gold medal awardImage via WikipediaNo rest for the weary. No sooner had the dedicated staff of "TUOL" landed in the nation's capital for some
R & R from the rough-and-tumble world of media law and journalism ethics than it was confronted by three-time Pulitzer Prize winning, 27-year Washington Post veteran reporter Sari Horwitz's admitted plagiarism of two articles from The Arizona Republic.

Horwitz, a Tucson native, in reporting on proceedings against Jared Lee Loughner, accused shooter of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, borrowed two paragraphs from a March 4 Republic story about charges facing Loughner, and 10 paragraphs of a 15-paragraph Republic story on March 10, without crediting the Arizona daily, according to a story in The Washington Post.

Horwitz owned up to appropriating the work of the Republic reporter, blaming tight deadline pressure for her transgression.  The paper suspended her without pay for three months. Post ombudsman Patrick Pexton weighed in on the subject, noting that plagiarism in his eyes was "theft."

Pexton cited a call he received from a local schoolteacher about the matter. "Teaching her students about plagiarism," Pexton wrote, "...has become her hardest task of the year because they are so accustomed to lifting information off the Internet with no attribution. She often uses The Post as a model for how to do it right. Her job just got harder."

Plagiarism is a cardinal sin in the profession that tarnishes the reputation of all journalists who already are losing ground in the credibility battle with a skeptical public. It has to be a firing offense, even when the wrongdoer is a Pulitzer Prize winner, and the Post has not covered itself in glory with a mealy-mouth rationale for its three-month suspension that Horwitz's cheating was an aberration in a stellar career.

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