Contra Costa Times Apologizes to LA Times for 'Nearly Identical' Editorial Approach
Menu

Home » Plagiarism »

A screenshot from the Contra Costa Times apology. (Credit: Contra Costa Times, screenshot, highlight added)

The Contra Costa Times apologized to the Los Angeles Times after learning its April 2 editorial was "nearly identical" to one by the Los Angeles Times.   According to Mondo Times, the Contra Costa Times is a daily California newspaper with a circulation of about 67,000 copies.

The Contra Costa Times' note to readers, signed by editorial page editor Dan Hatfield, explained that its editorial on "the California court system's stupendous failure to create an efficient computer system that could operate across the state," had a "nearly identical approach" to the Los Angeles Times' editorial and contained "several paragraphs…that were virtually identical."

According to the Contra Costa Times, the Los Angeles Times alerted the newspaper to the apparent plagiarism, which the Contra Costa Times called "clearly inappropriate and profoundly unprofessional."  The Contra Costa Times dismissed possibilities of a "coincidence" and noted that "we have taken appropriate personnel action."

However, The Contra Costa Times explained that opinion-wise, it had come up with the "same viewpoint" as the Los Angeles Times, writing:

"While each newspaper's editorial opinion staff came to the same viewpoint on the issue separately, the editorial that was published in our newspapers was clearly inappropriate and profoundly unprofessional. The wording is simply too similar to be a coincidence, and we have taken appropriate personnel action."

Interestingly, the Contra Costa Times didn't use the word plagiarism in its note about the incident.  We have written to the Contra Costa Times asking why it didn't, and what "appropriate personnel action" means. We will update with any response.

See here the Contra Costa Times' editorial and the Los Angeles Times' editorial from a few days earlier.

Below are two side-by-side comparisons from the editorials.  First, a selection of virtually identical sentences, in which we bolded verbatim content.  In the second case, both newspapers used similar ideas

The Los Angeles Times wrote:

"Probation, parole, mental health, police, sheriff, corrections, out-of-state courts — they are linked and can instantaneously share information with one another, but not with a trial court in California. And trial courts can't share information among themselves."

The Contra Costa Times wrote:

You May Also Like...

Are September 11 Hijackers Counted As Victims?

"Probation, parole, mental health, police, sheriff, corrections and out-of-state courts are linked and can instantaneously share information with one another. But that is not the case with trial courts in California. They can't even share information among themselves, and the state has been unable to fix the problem."

The Los Angeles Times wrote:

"Imagine walking out of 2012 and into a courtroom from the pre-laptop era. Court clerks fill out dockets, then pull apart five carbon copies to hand to attorneys, who shake their heads in disgust and go back to their offices to re-enter the data in modern, usable formats. Hearings are delayed and frustrated plaintiffs, defendants and lawyers get back on the freeway after learning that the court's official paper file has been misplaced and that there is no instantly retrievable digital version, so no possibility of proceeding.

"A social worker appears in Dependency Court seeking an order to protect a child, but the judge must wait two weeks to get a file from the next county because the family has moved and courts can't send each other files at the click of a mouse, the way everyone in the real world can."

The Contra Costa Times wrote:

"Take a trip back in time and imagine a scene from a California courthouse of the 1950s: You'd see clerks filling out paper dockets then pulling apart carbon copies to hand to attorneys. Other clerks would be placing piles of paper documents in file cabinets or collecting sheaves of paper from judges' desks to be filed later.  Now move ahead to the present and visit a 2012 courthouse. See any difference? Not much?  Unlike the rest of the world, California trial courts are operating as if the digital age were science fiction. As a result, hearings are delayed and frustrated plaintiffs, defendants and lawyers often must come back another day because a court's official paper file can't be found and there is no instantly retrievable digital version.

"Or perhaps a social worker appears in court seeking an order to protect a child, but the judge has to wait days or even weeks to get a file from the next county because the family has moved and courts can't send each other files at the click of a mouse."

We have written to the Los Angeles Times' Op-Ed editor Sue Horton and editorial page editor Nicholas Goldberg to ask if the newspaper is satisfied with the Contra Costa Times' response and will update with any response.

Hat Tip: Media Bistro's Fishbowl LA

 

Date: April 08, 2012

Submit a tip / Report a problem

Contra Costa Times Apologizes to LA Times for ‘Nearly Identical’ Editorial Approach

Share this article: