One of the cardinal rules of journalism


When it comes to writing and journalism, there is an almost unspoken rule that reigns among the industry workers, one so obvious but also so grave, and desperately avoided at all costs.

Plagiarism, that scary word we learned in middle school when we started writing papers, still sends nervous little shots down my spine. My teachers always warned me about it, explaining the huge consequences of stealing someone else’s work. It always made me think twice before copying and pasting those paragraphs off of Wikipedia…

It wasn’t until I entered high school and had to write research papers that I learned how serious plagiarism really is. The realization came with maturity and a new-found common sense that wasn’t quite present in my braces-laden prepubescent years.

Later when I discovered my love and appreciation for writing, I realized how wrong it’d be to steal someone else’s words, or to have someone steal my own. Majoring in journalism in college has only cemented this strong belief of mine.

As silly as it seems to be harping on and on about why plagiarism is wrong, you’d be surprised at how many people copy others’ work. I know fellow students who see nothing wrong with copying a few sentences here, and paraphrasing a few there. And when I say paraphrasing, I mean switching around a few words to make it seem a bit different.

But it’s not just students who are plagiarizing their college papers. A freelance writer for the local newspaper The Press and Journal plagiarized her column from The Guardian, The Daily Mail, and The Spectator.

Carly Fallon’s story about the upcoming winter season has whole paragraphs that are completely taken word-for-word from other writers. And then paraphrasing was taken to a whole other level of definition-changing.

Sentences such as “When the first snowflake hits the ground, everything transforms. Trains seize up. Schools close,” were ‘paraphrased’ into “And then, when the first snowflake hits the ground, everything transforms. Schools close; trains seize up.” The lazy senior might look at this as simply paraphrasing, but really it is just straight out plagiarism.

Fallon was fired from the paper, and I’m sure utterly humiliated. Did she really think she could get away with copying a WHOLE story, from not one, not two, but THREE writers?

Moral of the story is: write your own stuff. If you can’t come up with anything from your own brain to spill out as words onto your laptop screen, you should probably pick another career.

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