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Plagiarism and fabulism: Dishonesty in the newsroom

Volume 11, Issue 2

September, 2005

From page
84
to page
100
Samson, A. (2005). Plagiarism and fabulism: Dishonesty in the newsroom. Pacific Journalism Review, 11(2): 84-100
Author(s): Alan Samson
Publication date: 
September, 2005

In New Zealand, various journalism ethics codes either specifically condemn news media plagiarism—the passing off by a reporter of another's work or part work as one's own—or demand standards of accuracy and honesty that would preclude its use. Obviously the codes also preclude fabulism—outright story invention. In regard to the two, ascribing blame for plagiarism is the more problematic. This is because the public nature of news and the press's imperative to background and disseminate invariably lead to shades of grey. There is no such ambiguity for fabulism. This article therefore concentrates on plagiarism, discussing fabulism only because the two sins are often confused, especially when some high—profile transgressors have been guilty of both. Because plagiarism's definitional boundaries can be blurred, this paper examines—in the context of print journalism—the complexity of the problem and the difficulties inherent in finding workable solutions. To do this, on the path toward a definitional understanding, if not absolute definition, it considers underlying legal and ethical frameworks, historical and cultural origins, and the temptations and grey areas thrown up by the internet. In response to anecdotal public relations industry concerns it also includes a brief discussion of the rights and wrongs of reproducing press release material in its entirety.