Cutting Journalistic Corners

I think there’s more of this kind of stuff happening every day. As the competition heats up, reporters have less time to check themselves and do the research necessary for the story, so they cut corners now and then and grab from the myriad of online sources available for free. No harm done, right?

Wrong. It’s not right and it can get you fired.

THE Honolulu Star-Bulletin has fired its entertainment reporter Tim Ryan following an investigation into his stories which seemed to lean a little too heavily on Wikipedia content.

According to editor Frank Bridgewater, Ryan’s stories contained phrases or sentences that appeared elsewhere before being included, unattributed, in stories that ran in the Star-Bulletin.

Ryan had been working on the paper since 1984 and his copy on stories that are stored on the starbulletin.com have been amended.

The whole lot was spotted by Wikipedia editors who noticed that language used in one of Ryan’s stories about Aloha Flight 243 closely matched a Wikipedia article. He was spotted because the bloke that wrote the Wikipedia entry came across Ryan’s story on news aggregator Fark.com.

Ryan told his boss that he got the information from Reference.com rather than directly from Wikipedia. The paper said it would have to run a proper attribution, and promptly did so.

However it also seemed Ryan borrowed content from other online sources including a 7 June 2005 review of the Toyota Highlander hybrid SUV. This apparently came from an article in the Sacramento Bee by Mark Glover, from 15 April 2005.

Another case involved an interview printed in 17 December 2004 which matched another conducted by another journalist in 2003. The interesting thing about the firing was that it did not happen immediately after Wikipedia complained, but only after other news agencies started to run stories based on Wikipedia’s side of the story here.

It seems that Bridgewater felt that there was going to be a little to much heat on this case and culled the wordsmith.

More: Reporter plagiarizes Wikipedia

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