Editorial: Exposing a wrong

Plagiarism in publication offers learning experience

By Editorial Board

With any student-run endeavor, mistakes are bound to happen and student-journalists are not immune to this reality.

Student-journalists at this college receive the Canons of Community College Journalism as well as the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics each semester to use as a guide, but on rare occasions inaccuracies find their way into the newspaper.

Generally, mistakes like transposing letters in a name or providing the wrong classroom for an event warrant a correction in print and an apology to the misrepresented party.

However, there are times in a student-run publication when the mistake is so egregious that a correction seems like too small a gesture to right-the-wrong.

In journalism, honesty and accuracy are paramount, and at The Advocate journalism students pride themselves on being objective observers/reporters of campus events that would otherwise be ignored and forgotten.

This past week, the student-journalists on campus fell short of meeting that goal when a reporter committed the cardinal sin of plagiarizing the intellectual property of other writers when covering the drama department’s play “Dead Man’s Cell Phone.”

In his reporting, the student not only mis-characterized important aspects of the performance, he also lifted work from outside sources to enhance his level of reporting.

There was, in fact, no nudity what-so-ever in CCC’s production, although the initial review stated there had been such a scene.

In doing this, he not only tarnished the performance of the actors in the play, he also damaged the integrity of a platform, The Advocate, that has been comfortable speaking truth to power. The fact that community colleges serve as a revolving door for transitioning students, or this being the writer’s fourth story ever, is no excuse for false or misleading information to make it through the editing and production processes.

To be clear, no nudity was on display in the theater department production.

Journalism is a high pressure, deadline-oriented business, and student newsrooms are no exception.

Although there were major inconsistencies in the writer’s review when contrasted with the actual performance, the freshman writer maintains no malice was intended.

Instead, he said the drive to embellish his work with the ideas of others was not to sabotage the performance or the paper. In his words, he did it “simply to make his assignment more compelling.”

Despite his lack of malicious intent, the act is patently unacceptable. Every student who attends Contra Costa College must adhere to the Student Code of Conduct, which explicitly covers issues of academic fraud and dishonesty, among other things.

In the Code of Conduct Handbook, page 12 under Grounds for Disciplinary Action, a definition of plagiarism is provided.

It reads in part: plagiarism is defined as representing someone else’s words, idea, artistry, or data as one’s own, including copying another person’s work (including published and unpublished material, and material from the internet) without appropriate referencing.

The Advocate apologizes for this mistake and measures have been put in place to ensure this never happens again.