Plagiarism In Online Media: Is Journalism Doomed in the Digital Era?
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Plagiarism In Online Media: Is Journalism Doomed in the Digital Era?

Plagiarism In Online Media: Is Journalism Doomed in the Digital Era?

Journalism is often deemed the fourth power since, despite being not a direct political force, it is able to influence our perception of all the important spheres of life: from politics to culture. News media has become an inalienable part of modern life. People easily absorb information highlighted in daily articles and they tend to trust the material found in their favorite newspapers, magazines, and media portals. Confess, haven’t you become a victim of fabricated news? Not even realizing it, we trigger the dissemination of those false stories all over the Internet by means of our social networks. Undeniably, journalistic hoaxes are disturbing occurrences you should keep in mind, but I’ll try to dig into the particular instances in my next article. This time, I’ll try to catch one more plagiarism beast by the tail – it has sharp teeth and a long tongue, and it likes to eat, chew, and spit out the distorted versions of articles written by righteous reporters and bloggers. The ethics’ violation monster is called online media plagiarism.

I have a friend who is a correspondent for Radio Liberty. She usually writes about the important political and cultural events in developing countries, which have impediments in the way of freedom of speech. Such countries include Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and others. The main paradox is that those countries also have incredibly creative and honest journalists, but her articles were subjected to plagiarism numerous times by press representatives of the same nations. For instance, one of her significant unique articles was partially copied word-for-word by diverse online media. The perpetrators even didn’t bother to cite their source. Her only proof that her article is original is the date of its publication.

Personally, I noticed “plagiarism sins” on BuzzFeed: this media source simply didn’t look reliable to me at first sight because the information they post is silly and the news is pennywhistle. I wonder why they have so many readers. Having looked through this anti-aesthetics website, I instantly decided to check excerpts from different news and quizzes for authenticity via and I wasn’t even surprised to reveal the entire sentences copied from other sources. I wouldn’t say that this website is a colossal plagiarist, but if you pay more attention, you will realize that they cannot boast of much genuineness: the majority of ideas are not new, paraphrased, and imitated.

Other Examples of Plagiarized Content in Mass Media

One of the infamous journalists is Kendra Marr, who worked for the online magazine Politico. Many ideas of her articles were stolen from pieces written by others, particularly the periodical’s competitors, such as The New York Times. The “online media villain”, as I’d call her, lifted not only certain thoughts and conclusions but also duplicated the exact turns of phrase of the original authors. Luckily, she couldn’t hide her misdeeds for a long time as clairvoyant editors became suspicious.

Another notable example of Information Age plagiarism is the case of The Daily News senior justice writer Shaun King. This case is controversial because it still poses a question: who is a true plagiarist, King or the newspaper itself? They called him a pseudo-writer who stole journalistic investigations of others. After the editor-in-chief found out about the alleged journalistic ethics contraventions, he reviewed all the articles accomplished by King: he found three instances where written pieces lacked attribution. So, was justice not King’s piece of cake or was this accusation a slander? After the scandal, the writer tried to defend himself on social media, saying that this situation flabbergasted him. He claimed he wrote genuine articles, which were sometimes inspired by other journalists, but the sources were mentioned: somehow it happened that The Daily News removed attribution in his works. Even if plagiarism wasn’t intended by the author, his mistake was in neglecting to proofread the articles before publishing.

I’m offering you the following plagiarism prevention tips, which are beneficial not only to journalists but also to any other writers.

  • Be the one who finds the material. Don’t sit and wait for someone to tell you what to write about. Choose a topic that you find essential and search for an event related to it. A genuine journalist is always at the epicenter of events with his individual creative approach, so your task is not to find the first source but to become one. Even if you have to interrogate people, your questions should lead the original flow of their answers. Apparently, you know how to cite the interviewees.
  • If the information discovered by another reporter is important to you, attribute it properly. Reporters and bloggers are rivals but not enemies. There’s nothing wrong about sharing the data with others as long as you give credit to your colleague.
  • Proofread and sleep well. It’s honorable to be devoted to the authentic self-expression, but a variety of information can play a trick on you in a form of cryptomnesia or self-plagiarism: you may simply forget that you’ve heard some facts before and write about them once again. Proofreading will guard you against the unintentional plagiarism.

Has the Internet made us lords of incredible informational secrets or has it pose a threat to our own original inventions and thoughts? If journalists, who fight for the credible sources and intend to reveal the truth, are vulnerable to plagiarism, especially if they spread their valuable findings all over the web, then how can ordinary people protect themselves from intellectual works’ thieves? The only thing we can do is to cooperate with each other in our noble strivings to overcome that creepy plagiarism snake that is able to crawl into the most concealed places. Though the situation with online media is deplorable, its accessibility is our weapon. We can effortlessly find online pages and we can easily follow up their origins. If you have some doubts, copy the article and scan it through the veritable plagiarism checker: all dark secrets will be revealed.

Yes, it’s a copy-and-paste world but if you don’t want to become your own copied and pasted version, open a new document as a clean slate, and start writing: let the words flow like a river where authentic ideas are born!
Melissa Anderson
Born in Greenville, North Carolina. Studied Commerce at Pitt Community College. Volunteer in various international projects aimed at environmental protection.
Former Customer Service Manager at OpenTeam | Former Company secretary at Chicago Digital Post | PlagiarismSearch Communications Manager
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