A report by WFAA-TV’s Dale Hansen on Michael Sam, a defensive lineman and NFL draft prospect who came out as gay earlier this month, was plagiarized, Jim Romenesko reported. The guilty party was The Los Cerritos Community News.
The Los Cerritos Community News’ Feb. 14 report, by publisher Brian Hews, copied and pasted Hansen’s text verbatim from Hansen’s Feb. 10 report.
As evidence, Romenesko displayed side-by-side comparisons of a chunk of text that the newspaper stole from Hansen.
The newspaper has since published a correction signed by Hews that claims the problems with his article were accidental. He didn’t call his article plagiarism and instead tried to excuse the fail as unintended. The correction reads:
“In the February 14, 2014 print edition of the Los Cerritos Community Newspaper and other Hews Media Group – CN publications, an opinion piece written by Publisher Brian Hews entitled ‘National Homophobic Football League’ did not properly attribute information contained in the article. Texas sportscaster Dale Hansen‘s name was inadvertently left off the editorial, and we regret this error.”
Hansen is a sports editor at Dallas’s WFAA-TV Channel 8. The Los Cerritos Community News is a weekly newspaper in Cerritos, California. According to Mondo Times, it has a circulation of 35,000 though its website says its circulation is 60,000.
Hews seemingly defended the ethical lapse because of his newspaper’s size. He wrote to iMediaEthics, “I am a very small community newspaper….It is only me and my copy editor and one salesman.” He called the incident “a mistake” and noted he has “called Dale” about the plagiarism.
Hansen confirmed to iMediaEthics that he received an apology message from Hews and that he’s satisfied with the correction. Hansen said he learned about Hews’ lifting of his work from friends and that he’s “not sure how [Hews] forgot” to credit him.
Despite those excuses, Hews wrote to iMediaEthics that the newspaper “has won MANY awards” and that we should include that in our story.
When asked how the plagiarism occurred, Hews told iMediaEthics by e-mail, “I lay the paper out, my production guy left in Nov, I missed the ending not having Dale’s name on it.”
That didn’t make sense to iMediaEthics. We followed up with Hews, asking him to explain this, writing to Hansen that since the content wasn’t 100% verbatim from Hansen and that Hews’ byline was on the article, putting his name at the end would make no sense.
We also pointed out to Hews that even if Hansen’s name was at the end, there still was significant content lifted from Hansen’s article without any quotation marks around it.
Finally, we also repeated our initial questions asking why he didn’t call the article plagiarism, if the correction would be published in print and if he asked Hansen for feedback before publishing the correction.
Hansen told us he had no further comment, but then said, “Please put our tremendous investigative work with your story I think it would be unethical not to give the other side.”
iMediaEthics must note that any previous work has nothing to do with this plagarism case. iMediaEthics’ further question: If the newspaper is such a bastion for investigative work and reporting, why does it try to play dumb when it’s busted for plagiarism?
The article was only published in print, Hews told iMediaEthics in his initial response to our inquiry. Romenesko published an image of the print article. See below iMediaEthics’ mark-up of the article. We highlighted verbatim content.
Much of the Los Cerritos Community News article is essentially copy and paste or very minimal re-writes of Hansen’s report, from iMediaEthics’ review. It should be noted that the structure of the Los Cerritos Community News article is also similar to Hansen’s.
iMediaEthics asked Hansen if he plans to take any legal action over Hews’ use of his work. Hansen told iMediaEthics that he doesn’t and that he’s “not bothered by it.”
“If he plagiarized it, it’s a disgusting thing to do,” Hansen wrote, but noted that Hews “said he didn’t” so “I’m letting it go.”
UPDATE: 2/19/2014 8:46 AM EST: Added in response from Hansen