UPDATED: 'Disappointed' about Quebec Newspaper retraction for plagiarizing

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Concordia University campus. The Concordian newspaper is independent of the university but serves their community(Credit: Concordia University via Flickr)

Quebec-based newspaper The Concordian retracted a Jan. 7 article that lifted content from the Canadian University Press, a national university newspaper organization.

The Concordian identifies itself as “an independent newspaper providing local news, arts, music, sports and opinions to the Concordia University community since 1983.”  The Canadian University Press identifies itself as “a national, non-profit co-operative, owned and operated by student newspapers from coast to coast.”

According to The Concordian‘s Jan. 20 retraction, one of its articles contained “similarities” to a Canadian University Press article by Quebec bureau chief Kalina Laframboise. Laframboise notes on her Twitter profile she’s a “former news editor @TheConcordian.” The retraction read in part:

The Concordian regrets that there were unintentional similarities between Kalina Laframboise’s article, ‘Dissent continues to grow for Bill 60,’ published Dec. 20 by the Canadian University Press and Tim Weynerowski’s article, ‘Concordia University denounces Bill 60,’ published on Jan. 7 in The Concordian.”

Laframboise told iMediaEthics by e-mail that she is the one who found the problem with The Concordian‘s article. “I did spot the similarities and alerted the newspaper. I came across it while reading the news content and realized some of the wording sounded familiar. It was more than familiar — it was my work without my name,” she wrote.

She added that she is “disappointed” by the retraction statement, a sentiment that Canadian University Press national bureau chief Brendan Kergin shared.

“It’s safe to say that we are a little disappointed with what the statement said and the exact wording of it,” Kergin told iMediaEthics by phone. “There was no apology and the term ‘plagiarism’ was not used in the version I’ve seen.”

Kergin added that he sent The Concordian a letter “and we are hoping to discuss it with them further.”

“I don’t foresee any kind of legal action….but we hope to have a discussion with them at least about this, and as of this evening, I don’t see it being fully resolved quite yet,” he said.


Canadian University Press issues statement

As an organization, Canadian University Press (CUP) responded to the incident with a statement on its website. The statement reads:

“There was a recent incident of plagiarism, as defined in Canadian law, between a member paper and one of Canadian University Press’s bureau chiefs.

“This incidence prompts us to issue a reminder to all CUP members about proper attribution of CUP content. The work of CUP’s bureau chiefs is for your use and you are welcome to take paragraphs of their writing to add background or national context to a local story, but you must credit them. A simple “with files from” or, if the situation warrants it, a double byline, suffices as proper attribution.

‘If you plagiarize from CUP — or anyone else for that matter — your publication is violating established ethical industry standards and consequences will follow.”

CUP went on to offer suggestions for responding to plagiarism including posting “an apology and admission of the error, and properly attribute the plagiarized work.”

“Finding a long-term resolution, however, means reviewing how the mistake occurred in the first place, specifically, the writing and editing process that produced the work — a worthwhile endeavour for any publication committed to producing good journalism.”

The Concordian article in question appears to have been unpublished. iMediaEthics found a cache of the article, which was originally 367 words, compared to Laframboise’s 710-word article. Much of The Concordian article — about 200 words– consists of quotations from the Canadian University Press statement.

iMediaEthics has reached out to The Concordian‘s editor twice asking for confirmation, if there will be any review of its reporter Weynerowski’s work, if the retraction was published in print, and what Weynerowski’s explanation was for this incident. We’ll update with any response.


Side by Side comparison of text

A side-by-side comparison of the text in question is below. iMediaEthics bolded verbatim content.

From the Canadian University Press’s Dec. 20 article

“Concordia University is the third and last English university in Quebec to publicly denounce the charter of secularism proposed by the Parti Québécois.”

From The Concordian’s Jan. 7 article:

“As the third and last English university to publicly denounce the Parti Québécois’ proposed legislation, Concordia University to the Quebec Charter of Secular Values (Bill 60) with a letter from president Alan Shepard and a joint statement issued on Dec. 18 by the Senate Steering Committee and Board Executive Committee.”


Canadian University Press: “McGill was the first post-secondary institution to criticize the provincial government’s plan in late September…”

Concordian: “McGill was the first post-secondary institution to criticize the proposed Charter of Values.

Canadian University Press: “Concordia wants the PQ to radically amend its legislation taking issue with ‘certain key elements’ which includes prohibiting civil servants — such as professors and administration — from wearing “ostentatious” religious symbols and limiting time off for religious reasons.”

Concordian: “Both universities take issue with certain key elements of the proposed Charter which include prohibiting civil servants from wearing ostentatious religious symbols and limiting time off for religious reasons.”


UPDATE: 1/22/2014 6: 09 PM EST Added statement from Canadian University Press

UPDATE: 1/22/2014 6:57 PM EST: Added comments from CUP’s Brendan Kergin

UPDATE: 1/22/2014 7:44 PM EST: Added link to cache of Concordian article

UPDATE: 1/23/2014 4:46 PM EST: Added that Laframboise used to work at Concordian

UPDATE: 1/29/2014 11:39 AM EST: Read our follow-up story : Thanks for apologizing for plagiarizing former writer, Canadian University Press tells Concordian

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UPDATED: ‘Disappointed’ about Quebec Newspaper retraction for plagiarizing Canadian University Press article

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