Canadian Editor Resigns after Plagiarism Charges

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(Credit: the Anchor Weekly, screenshot)

The Anchor Weekly’s publisher and editor Steve Jeffrey resigned March 27 after “a U.S.-based writer” accused him of plagiarism in a complaint to the Alberta Press Council, PostMedia News reported.

According to PostMedia News, the press council’s executive secretary treasurer confirmed the council “received a  complaint and it will go to our executive committee on Thursday.”   According to the Telegram, Indianapolis columnist Erik Deckers prompted the council’s inquiry.   (Deckers, Poynter noted, was also plagiarized by Jon Flatland.  Humor writer Dave Fox revealed that Flatland, a former North Dakota Newspaper Association president, plagiarized from him and following investigations determined that Flatland repeatedly plagiarized, at least since 1995.)

Jeffrey explained that he resigned and that “I really don’t have any way to defend myself. I did use articles for inspiration, but thought that I had changed the content enough to comply,” according to PostMedia News.

Jeffrey wrote a “regular humour column” called “Sittin’ in the Lighthouse,” according to PostMedia News.  Jeffrey however told Poynter’s Andrew Beaujon that his column is on “local politics” and isn’t “humor” writing.

The Telegram reported that Jeffrey has been “accused of plagiarizing several writers, including  three from Newfoundland.”

The Telegram added that Jeffrey owned the newspaper and that he is on  the Alberta Weekly Newspaper Assocation’s board of directors.

According to the Telegram, the accusations of plagiarism charges were for “more than 40 of his weekly columns in the past year from 14 different writers.”  The Telegram identified “Tenneesee humourist Sheila Moss” as the “most frequently reproduced writer” with Jeffrey allegedly lifting her work on 25 occasions.

According to Poynter’s Andrew Beaujon, Moss said “if he had simply asked, I probably would have let him use [her work] for a very low fee.”

In a separate article by the Telegram, the Telegram reported that Jeffrey also plagiarized from the Telegram’s columnist Russell Wangersky’s July 5, 2008 column.  According to the Telegram, Jeffrey lifted ” those exact 28 words — and the better part of every other sentence in Wangersky’s column — under his own name.”

The Telegram described the plagiarized column as ” virtually identical, apart from a few minor changes; a personal detail added here, a geographical reference rewritten to fit Alberta there” to the original Telegram column.

Waters blogged about the plagiarism March 26 noting that after hearing about the Jon Flatland plagiarism case, he decided to look around to see if any of his work was plagiarized.

“How does the saying go? Don’t start looking if you are not prepared for what you might find?” he noted, writing that he determined that Jeffrey plagiarized his work in May 2011.  “In all, I found 41 evidently plagiarized columns by 14 different humor writers in the past 12 months,” and in all, “42 instances” of plagiarism.

Waters added in his post that since he hasn’t “communicated with all 13 of the other writers yet,” he cannot positively say if they granted permission to Jeffrey to use their writing.

Waters also included some side-by-side comparisons of his copy republished by Jeffrey.  He summarized: “Each one is basically as similar as the three above, although Jeffrey did occasionally change a few words in some columns to make certain references local to Canada and the like. ”

According to the Alberta Press Council’s website, it is “the oldest Press Council in Canada.”  The council’s executive secretary-treasurer Colleen Wilson told iMediaEthics by e-mail that the council is “a non-governmental, voluntary body funded by the newspaper industry, that handles complaints lodged gainst member-newspapers regarding a publication that is alleged to contravene our Code of Practice.” She clarified that the council addresses complaints against newspapers adn not individuals.

She noted that the council has “no further comment to make in the interest of maintaining the fairness of our procedures.”

Concerning the council’s procedure, Wilson directed to the website here and also explained :

“Our complaint process values the informal resolution of complaints directly as between the complainant and the member-newspaper. If the matter were to proceed to an investigation and adjudication by the Council, the process to be followed is that set out in the Council’s complaints procedure. With respect to time-lines, if a complainant wishes to proceed with a complaint, now that the Council has exercised its discretion to receive an out-of-province complaint, that individual has 60 days from the date of the publication to provide the Council with particulars, specifically the identification of the provision or provisions of the Code of Practice that have been violated by the member-newspaper.”

We wrote to Jeffrey’s e-mail on the Anchor’s website and received an auto-reply that Jeffrey will be out of the office until mid-April.

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Canadian Editor Resigns after Plagiarism Charges

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