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Is plagiarism ever acceptable?

June 6, 2009

The answer should be a clear no.  However, blogging has created a new medium which currently is not being held to the same ethical standards as other written medium (books, newspapers, magazines, and online content from papers and magazines).  Do we hold all bloggers accountable when they borrow without out citation?  On the whole, I say yes. 

I realize that many people use their blog as a journal, meant to be read by a select and often private group of people.  However, as a good friend of mine stated to me recently, most bloggers write to influence public opinion.  While most may not have the impact and readership of say “The Daily Dish” or Perez Hilton many (and I am sure there are exceptions) are striving for that same public recognition.  These writers I believe need to be held to the same standards as any other writer, even in “life and style” blogs.  For instance, if a journalist for Page Six was caught plagiarizing by the Post they would be fired on the spot; but if a gossip blogger plagiarizes, this is ok?  I think not. 

A recent example of this occurred on the new DC Interns blog.  They were accused of plagiarizing this section:

I will treat the cab driver with contempt and make sure that he knows that I am superior to him in life! I will tell him to “Take it easy on the brakes, Champ!”I will talk to people I don’t know about my job tonight! They will all know that I am an important man, and that the Congressman I intern for is the most important Congressman on the Hill! I will call female bartenders “Babe” and male bartenders “Chief!”

The original read:

I will treat the valet with contempt and make sure that he knows that I am superior to him in life! I will tell him to “Take it easy on the brakes, Champ”!

I will talk to people I don’t know about my job tonight! They will all know that I am an important man! I will call female bartenders “Babe” and male bartenders “Chief”! 

 

The blog has since moved on in its content, which is good for them.  I however, cannot get past the single infraction.  There is an ethical code to writing – very simply: DON’T PLAGIARIZE – and they brazenly violated it.  To me, like any other publisher firing their employee for the same act, this is simply unacceptable.  Perhaps I hold the world to a higher ethical standard then most, but I can’t see how reducing our ethical standards as a society will ever lead to anything productive or worthwhile.

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