wow, real consequences: The Harvard Crimson did a retraction and discontinued a column for less than what The McGill Daily says its Features editor did

I should just paste the whole thing:

Editors’ Note
Published On Thursday, October 26, 2006 10:58 PM

This past Monday The Crimson published an editors’ note regarding Victoria Ilyinsky’s Oct. 16 column, “This Word is Killing Me, Literally,” stating that the piece failed to reference the November 2005 Slate Magazine article “The Trouble With Literally” as a source for its citation of quotations from “The Great Gatsby and “Little Women.”

Since the publication of that note, we have continued to investigate whether the piece properly cited all of its sources. We still believe that Ilyinsky’s argument in the piece was her own. We have also concluded, however, that two other parts of the opinion piece also do not meet The Crimson’s standards for source citation, and it is on this basis that we have decided to retract the column.

First, Ilyinsky’s citation of a sportscaster’s use of the word “literally” during a Giants-Eagles NFL football game implies that the author heard the commentary herself. In fact, she learned of the account by reading about it on the web log “Literally, A Web Log.”

Second, Ilyinsky’s discussion of so-called “Janus words” may draw from a similar discussion in the Slate article. Both articles discuss Janus words, and provide three different examples of them. While the examples are different in each column, their presentation is very similar.

As a result, we have decided to discontinue Ilyinsky’s bi-weekly column, “On Our Language.” We apologize to our readers for the improper citations. We continue to be committed to accuracy and honesty in our reporting, and we continue to work with our writers to ensure proper citation in all of our content.


William C. Marra, Michael B. Broukhim, Matthew S. Meisel

Contrast this attitude and conduct by The Crimson to the conduct and attitude of our newspaper, when it came to identical text in Martin Lukacs’ article, the sources Lukacs named and the sources he didn’t name. The Harvard Crimson is an independent, collective-egalitarian style newspaper like The McGill Daily. Yet The Crimson acted professionally and publicly accepted responsibility, as opposed to The Daily, whose conduct throughout this whole business has been shoddy.

The Daily’s attitude is obvious. Their Public Editor’s column scoffed at the seriousness of the matter (along with the seriousness of any incident this year!) and dismissed any need for greater journalistic accountability. The Coordinating Editor’s Op-Ed on Thursday assured readers he thought it was a serious issue because Lukacs entered a “grey area,” then disavowed responsibility and tried to put the reason for The Daily’s conduct all on advice it got from the CUP one lawyer, when the CUP gave an opinion about whether there was plagiarism but almost certainly did not advise the Coordinating Editor to print no kind of retraction and explanation whatsoever!

[ UPDATED/CORRECTED: The explanation for the strikethrough is at bottom of post. ]

Nelles handed McGill students more than a grain of deceit, whereas Crimson editors gave Harvard students total honesty. (At one point, Nelles even implied that he hasn’t personally seen opinions from members of the SPJ Ethics Committee that consider and reject his argument and judge what the Features editor Martin Lukacs did to be plagiarism. ) That a ridiculously overpriced tuition buys prompt forthrightness from newspaper staff does not help The Daily’s argument for free tuition at McGill. After that Op-Ed, who couldn’t imagine Drew “Admitting-to-Plagiarism-Would’ve-Been-the-Easy-Way-Out” Nelles dumbfounded by the way The Harvard Crimson acted on its belief in standards and accountability?


UPDATE/CORRECTION: Nelles’ Op-Ed did not mention the CUP. It mentioned “professional advice” and a lawyer.  Someone pointed out to me that this particular Op-Ed does not mention the C.U.P. So to be clear, I mentioned the C.U.P. as part of the “professional advice” Nelles said he received, based on Nelles’ email to me, backed up by the quoted account in The Tribune. The email, which has already been quoted on the blog with Nelles’ permission, said:

I wanted to hear our lawyer’s opinion about this issue. I’m still waiting to hear back from him, but after talking to the CUP National Bureau Chief – who I believe you were also in contact with [ DW: I didn’t ask Wolfe-Wiley whether he thought there had been plagiarism. ] – as well as asking a law student and doing some research of my own, it appears that this isn’t plagiarism as such. It obviously walks a dangerous line that should be avoided and dealt with seriously, but in William Wolfe-Wiley’s opinion it’s just not plagiarism.

Based on some correspondence I’ve had with someone high-up at the CUP — but not with Wolfe-Wiley himself — this may not have been Wolfe-Wiley’s opinion. In fact, Nelles has not repeated anything about a discussion with the CUP Bureau Chief in his latest Op-Ed.


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