Was The Gazette Too Hard on Its Plagiarizing Intern?

July 2009
An editor's note on the front page of yesterday's Colorado Springs Gazette confessed that a writer had pilfered the works of other journalists, bringing the issue of plagiarism--an ongoing credibility issue since a scandal struck The New York Times six years ago--back into focus. This time the perpetrator wasn't a high-flying journalist like the Times' Jayson Blair, but rather a news intern named Hailey Mac Arthur. In a profuse apology, her editor, Jeff Thomas, admitted Mac Arthur stole phrases from stories in--of all places--the Times, outlining each incident in detail, calling Mac Arthur's actions a "breach of trust," and informing readers she had been fired. Gawker pieced together some background on Mac Arthur, pointing out that she's a student at the University of Florida College of Journalism who also worked for The Gainesville Sun. Meanwhile, dscriber wonders whether the Sun and other pubs Mac Arthur worked for, including Advantage Publishing and The Independent Florida Alligator, would investigate their archives for other pillaged works. The Alligator quoted the university's dean of journalism, John Wright, as saying, "For the life of me, I don't see how this kind of thing could happen in this day and age." John Hazlehurst, a columnist for the Colorado Springs Business Journal, expressed some sorrow for the intern and chided the Gazette for naming her. We all make mistakes, Hazlehurst wrote, adding, "That's why I think a little more compassion and a little less editorial wrath might have been appropriate." In the midst of it all, Newsweek takes a look at a possible phenomenon--unconscious plagiarism.