Washington Examiner gets apology from Michigan newspaper after being plagiarized

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UPDATE: Glenn Gilbert emailed our reporter, Zack Colman, and apologized. A few minutes earlier, he sent us this email:

Jennifer, I was wrong. The item in question was my column, not a blog. We have since removed the material and added the statement that "An earlier version of this column included information from a Washington Examiner report. Although the Examiner was clearly credited as the source, the publication objected to the use of the information and felt it should have been paraphrased. Our intention was not to slight the Examiner's contribution and we regret any inappropriate attribution."

I appreciate your accurate report of the incident and our discussion. The last thing I would ever want to do is offend a creative reporter who uses the language well.

We do feel the passages in question should have been paraphrased or enclosed in quotation marks because it was a word-for-word usage of material from Colman's story.

This story was originally posted at 3:26 p.m. and was updated at 4:36 p.m.

Note to Glenn Gilbert, executive editor of the Oakland (Mich.) Press: Please don't plagiarize your former interns.

Five paragraphs of our reporter Zack Colman's Dec. 6 story, "Lawmakers look to end wind energy credits," were picked up and used verbatim in Gilbert's blog post from Wednesday titled "Public needs to know who opposes wind tax credit."

To add insult to injury, Colman once interned under Gilbert.

When our reporter first saw the story Wednesday night, the piece didn't have any attribution to the Washington Examiner. Sometime later, some attributions including "according to a report in the Washington Examiner" were added.

That's not enough, according to widely accepted industry practices that we've all been taught by tweed-wearing college journalism profs and grumpy old city editors in coffee-stained shirts. If you use a passage from something someone else has written, it really ought to have quotation marks around it.

So, I called Gilbert. Our conversation didn't go well.

I told him we wanted a published apology. "You're not going to get an apology," he said.

"I can tell you I'm sorry," he said. "I thought I followed the rules." He then said he could have published the passages from us without attribution, claiming that "fair use" law allowed him to use up to 150 words. (We counted after I got off the phone with him: When we got to 200 words, we stopped counting.)

He offered to take the material in question out of the blog — but said no apology would be published. He said he would add a sentence at the bottom saying he had revised the post after the Washington Examiner said it was offended. But still no apology.

Our reporter was not happy about having material ripped off by his former editor. "I'll apologize to him," Gilbert told me, but said he would do nothing more. "I thought you'd be flattered," he said.

He pointed out that the piece in question was never published in the print edition, and appeared only on his blog on the Press' website. Not many people had seen it, he said, as the piece had only 42 readers yesterday. Unfortunately for him, one of those 42 was Zack Colman.

Gilbert was honored Thursday by the local county commissioners "for nearly 50 years in journalism, work in community," the Press reported.

A comparison of Zack Colman's Dec. 6 Washington Examiner story, left, and Glenn Gilbert's blog post as it appeared online Thursday morning, right, with the identical passages highlighted.

 

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