Bloch and tackle

Don't mess with Emily Bloch

Emily Bloch was just plagiarized. So why is she smiling?


Because the 21-year-old college editor proved a local reporter copied her story, proved he had done the same to others, and stood up to the publisher who vaguely threatened to sue her.

That all happened last week. By Friday afternoon, the plagiarizing reporter was suspended and the publisher had announced an internal investigation.

Not bad for a week’s work.

Here’s what happened, and what we can learn from it…

Bloch is the newly elected editor of the student newspaper at Florida Atlantic University, and not long after she reported about a police investigation into a student rape off campus, she discovered The Boca Raton Tribune had done the same – lifting entire paragraphs from her story.

Her faculty adviser emailed the Tribune, politely asking for elaboration. No reply. A few days later, Bloch called but couldn’t get past the receptionist.

So being a journalist, Bloch investigated her plagiarist and – to no one’s surprise – learned he had done it before. His targets included not just a major regional daily but national sites like Wired and The Daily Beast.

Bloch wrote a column on the University Press website that began like this…

At FAU, if I get caught plagiarizing a paper, I’ll get an F. It would go on my transcript and on a repeat offense, I could get expelled. But if I do it at The Boca Raton Tribune, I’ll get a paycheck.

Ouch.

Bloch promoted her column on social media, and Poynter staff writer Ben Mullin tweeted it, as did best-selling author Jeff Pearlman to his 49,000 followers. A local website called Rise Miami News covered the story, quoting Bloch: “Copying and pasting whole paragraphs from my story is pretty ballsy.”

Not surprisingly, within hours of Bloch’s column going live, the publisher called her — to demand the story be spiked. She didn’t back down. The publisher called the newspaper’s faculty adviser and mentioned calling a lawyer. He didn’t back down.

By the time I spoke with the publisher Friday afternoon — because SPJ Florida and Region 3 like to spend money on lawyers defending journalists — he realized his threats weren’t budging his targets. So he announced the reporter was suspended and he was investigating.

“She brought up very good points,” the publisher told Rise Miami News. “We want to teach young people good journalism, and this is not the right way.”

Bloch did it the right way. Journalism can not only comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable, it can punish a plagiarizer.


Defending the First Amendment and promoting open government are more crucial now than ever. Join SPJ's fight for the public’s right to know — either as an SPJ Supporter or a professional, student or retired journalist.


Connect

Twitter Facebook Google Plus RSS Instagram Pinterest Pinterest LinkedIn


© Society of Professional Journalists. All rights reserved. Legal

Society of Professional Journalists
Eugene S. Pulliam National Journalism Center, 3909 N. Meridian St., Indianapolis, IN 46208
317/927-8000 | Fax: 317/920-4789 | Contact SPJ Headquarters | Employment Opportunities | Advertise with SPJ