The Breeze, the student newspaper for James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, revealed that one of its reviews was plagiarized from another news outlet.
The Breeze wrote in a June 29 letter to the editor that a reader tipped the paper off to the plagiarism. Since that complaint, The Breeze has cut ties with the writer and unpublished the review. Then, the newspaper reviewed that writer’s work and found four more cases of plagiarism. Ultimately, The Breeze unpublished all the articles by that writer.
The newspaer is not naming the writer because of its university’s Honor Council confidentiality policy.
Because of this incident, The Breeze has instituted a “spot checking” for plagiarism.
Breeze editor Abby Church told iMediaEthics, “Because The Breeze is seeking disciplinary action through JMU’s Honor Council and the confidentiality that process involves, I’m afraid I don’t have anything further to say about this situation specifically beyond what was posted in my letter on our website.”
Church added, “What I will say is that this situation has been incredibly difficult to deal with as the Editor-in-Chief of a student publication, especially during the summer when my staff isn’t able to be together. I’m incredibly thankful for my managing editors, legal counsel, ethics instructor and especially my general manager for guiding me as I tried to figure out how to best deal with this situation. While we hold ourselves to the same standards as any professional publication, The Breeze is also a place that provides learning opportunities for those who want to become journalists. It would be fair to say my leadership team and I are disappointed with this writer’s actions, and we hope they’ve learned something through this experience and continue to learn as we move through dealing with this situation in the fall.”
The June 29 letter to the editor reads:
“On June 22, The Breeze received an email alleging that a review we published on “The Chef Show” was plagiarized. An investigation into the claims revealed the writer plagiarized at least half of the review from another news source. The writer was subsequently released from our staff, and the story was immediately taken off our website.
“The Breeze is pursuing disciplinary action through the Honor Council. Because of the confidentiality of that process, we have chosen not to name the writer. After discovering this instance of plagiarism, Breeze leaders began an internal review of the writer’s work, which led us to find at least four other reviews that were plagiarized to varying degrees.
“In an abundance of caution, we have since removed all of the writer’s work from our website. We apologize to our readers for what has occurred. The Breeze prides itself on its dedication to journalistic integrity, and plagiarism is not tolerated in our newsroom.
“This publication stands for originality in all its work, whether it be articles, photos, videos, graphics or advertisements. If we’re ever in a position where we have to use another’s words instead of our own, we always give full credit. This writer’s actions do not represent our values as journalists and as a newsroom. The Breeze is taking action to ensure this won’t happen again.
“We’ve changed our editing practices to include spot checking for anything in relation to other published bodies of work. We’ll also have more editors reading through our stories prior to publication. We thank you for reading and consistently choosing us as a reliable source for your JMU and Harrisonburg news.”