Steve Penn claims The Kansas City Star defamed him when it reported on firing him for plagiarism, the newspaper reported.
The central issue of Penn's lawsuit is that it was "widespread practice" at the paper to use copy from "press releases without attribution" in Star stories, a practice that got him fired last July.
As we wrote last year, Penn was fired after the newspaper found "more than a dozen examples" of his using copy "as his own and without attribution." Penn had worked at The Star since 1980.
When fired, The Star's vice president and editor Mike Fannin called that practice "serious errors of judgment" that "were clear violations of our ethics policy." The Riverfront Times blog noted that the policy "is pretty clear on plagiarism." It states:
"Do not borrow the work of others. Plagiarism includes the wholesale lifting of someone else's writing, research or original concepts without attribution."
Penn claims that those comments "were false" because his practice wasn't "professional misconduct" and wants the newspaper and its publisher, The McClatchy Company, to pay "at least $25,000 in actual damages and an undetermined amount of punitive damages," according to The Star.
Penn's lawsuit also claims that copy from press releases doesn't need attribution. Courthouse News Service wrote that it says press releases are "voluntarily released by their authors into the flow of news with the intention that the release will be reprinted or published, and preferably with no or minimal editing," the suit states. "As such, attribution of such news releases is typically not expected by the author, nor offered by journalists who receive them."
Further, Penn argues that he was scapegoated, according to Courthouse News Service, which quoted from the lawsuit:
"One of (his) supervisors apparently objected to the widespread practice and without informing plaintiff that it should no longer be followed, decided to 'make an example' of plaintiff and to push for his firing."
We've written to The Star's Fannin for comment and will update with any response.
Hat Tip: Editor & Publisher