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Our View: Plagiarism will not be tolerated

Posted: December 28, 2009 3:51 p.m.
Updated: December 29, 2009 4:55 a.m.
We are disappointed.

Disappointed in those local columnists who saw fit to "borrow" other people's ideas.

Disappointed in ourselves, as well. In both cases of plagiarism uncovered among our columnists so far, it was outside sources who discovered the breaches of trust, the violations of honesty. We should have been more vigilant ourselves.

Once again, we find ourselves apologizing to our readers.

The role of community newspapers in providing a public forum is one we hold dear.

It is our duty - and we consider it our honor - to air public issues publicly in our opinion pages, to seek ideas and opinions from all sides and publish those ideas and opinions, so that together we can shape a better Santa Clarita Valley. We certainly don't agree with everything we publish, but it is our honor to publish it.

There is no place in this public forum for hijacked rhetoric, for purloined thoughts or unoriginal, rehashed concepts.

Apparently, it would be in everyone's best interest to pause here and define "plagiarism." Put simply, plagiarism is the theft of intellectual property. It is stealing other people's ideas - not just their words, but their thoughts - and passing those off as one's own.

Plagiarism is often known as copyright infringement in the world of professional creativity. The music and filmmaking industries take plagiarism very seriously. If the melody of your new tune sounds too much like one that has been heard before, you could be sued for copyright infringement. If your storyline is too much like a script that passed over your desk a few years ago, you could be sued.

In the world of writing, there are academically tested, accepted methods of expressing other people's ideas - and giving credit where credit is due.

In newspapers we use what's called informal attribution. One need only to note: "An essay by so-and-so says this ..." - reminding the reader of the attribution frequently and quoting the author when appropriate - and one has given credit and avoided plagiarism.

Some of our writers have not always done that.

Consequently, we are taking the following actions:

n We have deleted from our Web site every column written by columnists who have been proven to plagiarize.

n Effective immediately, we are suspending local columns for a week while we overhaul our opinion page protocols and build a system to guard against plagiarism.

n We will take other necessary actions to ensure we offer our readers an honest, fair exchange of ideas on our opinion pages every day.

On Wednesday, Jan. 6, it will be our pleasure to resume publishing our local columnists, along with a follow-up editorial informing our readers of the measures we have agreed upon to ensure honesty in the future.

At the same time, we are concerned with painting all our columnists with the same brush, so to speak. We believe most of our columnists labor hard to express their ideas in return only for the pleasure of sharing those thoughts with our readers.

We do not pay them for their labors, and in return we expect thoughtful, original, well-written and attributed articles.

We have no reason to question their dedication. We appreciate their honesty.

That honesty is something we will, to the best of our ability, ensure in the future.


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