So this morning’s story on Stephen Glass’ plight to persuade the California Bar to grant him admission – written by Jack Shafer of Reuters – brings to light Glass’ latest argument regarding his moral character: He was tormented by his family into being a dishonest reporter. Is it a plausible defense? Or another fabrication/manipulation by Glass?
Glass, if you remember, fabricated story after story for the New Republic before he was fired and his stories scrutinized, post-publication … and was portrayed by Hayden Christensen in the movie, “Shattered Glass.”
Now, Shafer writes:
The legal argument under debate in California isn’t whether Glass made stuff up willy-nilly in his journalism. That verdict was delivered long ago; you can read the eye-popping details in Buzz Bissinger’s September 1998 Vanity Fair feature. The question before the California Supreme Court is the 39-year-old Glass’s current moral state, and whether he has sufficiently rehabilitated himself to practice law today.
Stephen Glass clearly has the gift to manipulate. It’s probably what would make him a good lawyer. But his lastest saga raises some questions in regards to plagiarism, and whatever motivation one may have to fabricate or plagiarize:
Is there any redemption for committing plagiarism?
Or for those who enable plagiarism?
Why do some journalists fabricate or plagiarize?
I got a little into it on Twitter this morning, and will expound here. Because I hate to make a point 140 characters at a time.
In the spring of 2009, a Google Alert landed in my email box with a link to a blogger’s story on a local hockey prospect … a story that included the quotes that ran in a story I wrote earlier that spring.
Houston, we have a problem.
My editor confronted the person who ran the blog. It was an unpleasant exchange, and I’m indebted to the editor for defending the work and the brand.
Later, I confronted the blogger. His answer? “The original links to your story didn’t work.” So, um, you lifted the quotes instead and used them in a completely different context? (The offending post was removed, by the way.)
Note to writers: Check your links. Better yet, interview someone yourself.
Another instance: my quotes and work were lifted again by a different outlet, work I’d written under a different editor.
Said editor would not handle the situation. “Imitation is a great form of flattery,” the editor told me, after I brought the instance to his attention.
So, wait. Plagiarism is flattery? Does that mean hell is just a sauna?
Even worse? Prior to that exchange, said editor told his staff to come to him whenever there was a problem with other media types lifting our stories. After that exchange, I asked a few more questions: Was this person really fighting for me? For my coworkers? For our department?
(Said editor is still employed and I am not. Go figure!)
It should be easy enough to know this much – don’t plagiarize. Or fabricate. Or let a good story get in the way of the facts. There’s no excuse for a lazy attempt at journalism. For fabrication. For cutting and pasting.
Or for blaming your parents as a reason for doing all these things.