Tag Archives: plagiarism

If the Public Editor’s going to write about “Sparing the Rich” again, he might mention another article with intentional copying

Someone points out to me that this Daily article, by ex-Features editor Martin Lukacs, from the spring before last evidently got some “textual inspiration” from this article in The Guardian five months before. Right now, the last section of The Daily article stands out to me as having similarities to The Guardian piece by Robert Reiner. The clearest example is that Reiner writes in The Guardian:

Sir Ian’s basic question, “What kind of police service do we want?” cannot be considered in isolation from the question of the kind of society we have and want. Policing is a symbol, not a source, of the character of a civilisation.

And the ex-Features editor writes in his concluding lines:

By shifting the terms on which we think about policing and crime, we take the first step towards ensuring real security in the future. The question of what kind of police service we want cannot be answered in isolation from the question of what kind of society we have and want.

The Guardian is not credited at all, and the copying is obviously intentional. I find it hard to believe that the writer wasn’t aware that people would see this as plagiarism.

There are also some smaller bits of identical text. But ignoring the identical text, other aspects of the article — such as taking Reiner’s use of a quote from the novel The Long Goodbye and some analysis similar to Reiner’s — would make a situation analogous to, though worse than, the one The Harvard Crimson had, for which they discontinued the author’s column and printed an immediate retraction.

There’s no retraction yet for actions of the guy whom they replaced with James McNultey and now Omar Little from the cable show The Wire

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UPDATE: yes, the Features editor did misquote … or miscopy

In the post I wrote this afternoon, I mentioned:

I have a hunch that some of the quotes Lukacs attributes to him may not be correct. Lukacs puts the phrase “mental disease” in quotes, and it would not surprise me if those were another author’s words, maybe even Lukacs’, put into Olmsted’s mouth.

No word yet on the phrase “mental disease,” but in fact, there are two misquotes of Olmsted.

Martin Lukacs appears to have poached from an article that is online, from the Journal of Leisure Research, by a woman named Dorceta E. Taylor. The Daily’s Features editor seems to have (1) misquoted some of Taylor’s words as Frederick Law Olmsted’s, and (2) miscopied Taylor’s presentation of two of Olmsted’s quotes as one continuous quote. I put in blue what corrects for the misquotes in Lukacs’ text and in red what amounts to unattributed use of Taylor’s words:

The McGill Daily, 2007

A park should, according to Olmsted, “inspire communal feelings among all urban classes, muting resentments over disparities of wealth and fashion.” They “more directly assist the poor and degraded to elevate themselves,” calm the “rough element of the society, divert men from unwholesome, vicious, destructive methods and habits of seeking recreation,” and counter “a particularly hard sort of selfishness and anomie prevalent in the cities.”

Dorceta E. Taylor, 1999

Olmsted thought the parks would “inspire communal feelings among all urban classes, muting resentments over disparities of wealth and fashion.” The park’s scenery would “more directly assist the poor and degraded to elevate themselves,” calm the “rough element of the society,” “divert men from unwholesome, vicious, destructive methods and habits of seeking recreation,” and counter “a particularly hard sort of selfishness” and anomie prevalent in the cities.

So is that an instance of “purloining“? Ask him …

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[ Note: I did not use an online “plagiarism checker,” which I don’t believe editors or suspicious critics should use in most situations. I just googled for the phrases Lukacs put in quotation marks. For those wondering how I had this hunch — besides the ambiguity of the “mental disease” phrase, Lukacs quoted Olmsted as using the word anomie, which felt like it fit a different place and time (apparently, it’s Emile Durkheim’s word, which he started using around the time Olmsted died). — Lukacs has just emailed me to say that the “mental disease” phrase was indeed not Olmsted’s, but his.

Obviously, the Daily writer’s mistakes with Taylor’s text were at least partly, if not totally, inadvertent. In any case, The Daily’s printing a series of 5 Olmsted quotes in the same order and concentration as in Taylor’s article would be considered an ethical infraction by other newspapers, even if the journalist would not have purposefully used another author’s diction (“calm,” “counter”) as his own. ]

[ UPDATE: In the final issue of last year, reporter Martin Lukacs DID purposefully use another author’s diction as his own. And in the first issue of this semester, Features editor Martin Lukacs did seem to do so again. ]