WIUM Tristates Public Radio

NPR's Forthright Approach to Plagiarism

Nov 3, 2015

A contributing writer to NPR's website was caught plagiarizing.  Instead of trying to cover up the act, NPR posted a story about it. The story spotlights ten examples and includes links to the original material.

The Shop Talk panelists support the network’s approach.

Jonathan Ahl said not only did NPR acknowledge the plagiarism, but it informed the audience about it in a way that made it clear what was going on.  Ahl considers it “an immense level of transparency,” though he’s concerned that the writer got away with it for so long.

Rich Egger said it’s probably easier than ever to plagiarize, given the amount of information now available at your fingertips.  But for the same reason, it’s also probably easier than ever to catch a plagiarist.

Jasmine Crighton said there is already a tool available for educators to use if they suspect plagiarism.  And she said it’s also easy to simply Google a suspicious phrase in a paper to check whether it was lifted from elsewhere.

Crighton and Ahl both said they’ve caught students making up quotes or using information without attribution.  They consider the NPR case a “teachable moment.”