Share your newsroom’s plagiarism policy

Representatives from some of the most prominent journalism organizations are confronting the industry’s struggle with plagiarism and fabrication. To better understand the issue, we want to hear from the nation’s newsrooms about their policies aimed at eradicating such behavior.

The mission started when Craig Silverman, author of Regret the Error and a Poynter adjunct faculty member, detailed ten episodes of plagiarism during what he labeled “journalism’s summer of sin,” and challenged journalism’s professional organizations to work together to attack the problem.

The challenge was taken up by Teresa Schmedding, president of the American Copy Editors Society, who talked about the idea during her workshop presentation in September at Excellence in Journalism. SPJ President Sonny Albarado committed the society to participate.

Schmedding began her letter of invitation to the committee with a stark assessment, “Plagiarism and fabrication are killing us.”

A committee with journalists and journalism educators, including representatives of the American Copy Editors Society, the Associate Press Media Editors, the American Society of News Editors, College Media Advisers, the Online News Association and the Radio Television Digital News Association.

President Albarado and Ethics Committee Chair Kevin Smith asked me to represent the Society of Professional Journalists on the committee. The committee has been divided into three subcommittees, each looking at a different aspect of the issue.

William G. Connolly, a retired senior editor of The New York Times, is leading the committee effort. Connolly is a founding member of the American Copy Editors Society and has served as the president of its education fund.

The goal is to create an e-book that would define practical guidelines for preventing, detecting and responding to plagiarism and fabrication. The plan is for the e-book to be ready for a summit meeting that will be part of the ACES national conference in St. Louis on Friday, April 5.

Silverman, who is also a member of the committee, asked Poynter readers for help recently:

“ 1. We’d like to collect examples of newsroom policies that talk about plagiarism and fabrication. What do you tell your people about what is and isn’t plagiarism? Do you have ethical guidelines that address these issues? We want as many of these policies as possible.

2. We’d like to hear from newsrooms that have instituted measures to detect and prevent incidents of plagiarism and fabrication. Do you do random checks? Do you use plagiarism-detection services to root out stolen content? Do you call sources quoted in a story? Any examples of internal practices or programs would be great.”

SPJ members who have examples to contribute should email them to Silverman at, and if you have questions or suggestions about the committee’s work, you may email me at

Silverman’s original article, “Journalism’s Summer of Sin marked by plagiarism, fabrication, obfuscation,” including the examples, is available at

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