Dec 12, 2007

Stolen words, borrowed ideas has its year-end wrap up of newsroom plagiarism and fabrication posted here. (What happened in June?)

Plagiarism is a filthy business. One of the last stories I broke at the Star-News was about Pasadena Unified School District Superintendent Percy Clark plagiarizing a parable from a Unitarian minister for an opinion piece he wrote in another newspaper. He said the parable was just so popular he didn't remember it wasn't his original work.

Imagine that excuse coming from one of his students... Clark didn't survive the year.

As a nascent blogger, I'm wary of borrowing on the ideas of others when writing posts. I don't mean stealing them outright. Rather, I sometimes find myself incorporating the opinions of others into my own views, especially when those opinions come from people I respect and admire, and when those opinions fill in gaps in my own thinking.

It's a passive process, this incorporation, and one I hadn't thought too much about when doing reporting. After all, borrowing good ideas from editors and other reporters is part of the job. But a good blog demands an original voice, and creative writing demands an additional layer of ethics.

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