Dispatch bans Buckeye Institute

Not to take pleasure from the misfortune of those with whom one disagrees, but it was indeed interesting to see the editorial below by the editor of the Columbus Dispatch. The Buckeye Institute is Ohio's self-proclaimed "free market think tank."

Our opinion? Views should be one's own

October 5, 2003
BENJAMIN J. MARRISON

For the second time in a month, we have discovered that a guest writer plagiarized part of an opinion piece published in The Dispatch. In an Aug. 18 column, Joshua C. Hall, a director of research at the Buckeye Institute and a lecturer in the School of Management at Capital University, suggested that Ohio privatize more of its work force to save money.

A little more than a week ago, an interested reader provided me with proof that some of what Hall purported to be his own work was eerily (and sadly) similar to the views of Geoffrey F. Segal of the Reason Public Policy Institute. A column Segal had written on the same topic was published Aug. 6 in The Sun of Baltimore. Five passages were nearly identical.

For example, Segal had written: ''Perhaps the chief benefit of outsourcing is that it allows states to devote fewer internal resources to burdensome back-office administrative tasks and instead concentrate resources on the core mission, responsibilities and programs of state government."

Hall followed with: ''The chief benefit would be a state government devoting fewer internal resources to burdensome backoffice administrative tasks. Instead, state agencies would be able to concentrate on their core mission and more effectively hold their programs accountable for results."

When confronted, Hall said the words were his own and that he did not know how they ended up in Segal's column.
Finally, after meeting with Glenn Sheller, our editorial page editor, the president of the Buckeye Institute, Samuel R. Staley, admitted that the research and text were prepared by a public-relations firm in Alexandria, Va., and sent to people who would use the information in such columns.

When submitted, the column carried the dual byline of Staley and Hall. Our policy requires a single byline on an opinion piece, and they chose to use Hall's name.

As a result of this journalistic fraud, The Dispatch no longer will publish columns submitted by Hall or Staley. There is great irony in this tragedy: Two men who work for a think tank had to ''borrow" ideas from a public-relations firm for the column.

I share this with you not to air dirty laundry but to demonstrate our commitment to honest journalism and to emphasize how sacred we hold the public's trust.

Some apparently do not realize that when we allow a guest columnist on our Forum page, we are trusting that the writing belongs to the person whose name appears atop the column. The reader, unless told otherwise, believes that the words and thoughts are those of the author.

We faced a similar problem with a professor at Ohio State University. On Aug. 27, we reported that Tunc Aldemir, who teaches mechanical engineering, submitted a column using several passages written by someone else. The passages were not attributed to the authora public-relations
firm in Washington, D.C. The Dispatch will no longer publish columns bearing Aldemir's name.

We'd be interested in knowing whether you think the punishment in these cases fits the ethical crime.

We hope to prevent this from happening again. We will send reminders to those who write for us that their submissions must be their own work, unless they provide credit to the originating source.

Because we cannot cross-reference every submission, we likely won't know when someone misrepresents his or her work. But in this Internet age, breaches of trust almost certainly will be exposed. And when they come to our attention, we'll expose them.

We hope the word thieves will get the message.

 

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As a result of this journalistic fraud, The Dispatch no longer will publish
columns submitted by Hall or Staley.

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