Plagiarism and the state of West Virginia journalism
Page 3 of the “Region” section in this weekend's Wheeling News-Register brings us an op-ed by Republican Delegate Mick Bates of Raleigh County:
W.Va. Deserves Commitment to Energy Independence
As I read the article, it seemed familiar, but I wasn’t sure why. Given the numerous examples of Ogden’s recycling, I decided to take a sentence from the piece, surround it with quotation marks, and then put it into a search engine. Not surprisingly, the first result was the current paper. Right under it, however, was the same sentence and it, too, listed the Wheeling Intelligencer, but this time with a different date (3/19/22), and a different title:
Let’s Generate Energy Here To Bolster State’s Future
Most importantly, it listed a different author, Charlie Burd, who is the WV Gas and Oil Association’s executive director.
I then copied the Bates article and compared it to the older Burd article. I used red to mark the non-quotational phrases and sentences that are word-for-word as they appear in the original Burd article and green to cover the Manchin quote that both parties used. Here are my results:
As readers can see, better than half of the Bates article (the red print) comes directly from the Burd article with all of paragraphs 3, 5, 6, and 12 being exactly the same. My conclusion: the Bates article has significant amounts of plagiarized material.
Plagiarism and our local papers
A casual observer might wonder how the News-Register could reprint, under a different name, essentially the same article that appeared three weeks ago in their paper? Didn’t someone notice? Answer: as I’ve argued on multiple occasions: for Ogden, I don’t think that it matters – they don't care. This is a paper that is only worried about filling-up space -- that the op-ed had been previously published or that it was plagiarized would be irrelevant to them.
The News-Register is not alone
I did some checking and at least three other West Virginia media sources have run both the Burd and the Bates op-eds without pointing out the similarities in content.
WV State Journal
WV Press Association
(Note -- this list may be larger since not all WV news sources place everything they publish online.)
Does plagiarism matter?
Simply put, plagiarism is using someone else's work without properly giving credit; it is taking another's intellectual property and calling it your own. There are no excuses for it since in 2022, it is very easy for the writer and the publisher to check for plagiarism. As I have noted on a number of occasions, it only takes a few seconds to run an article through an online plagiarism checker. (A number of them are free or charge a minimal amount.) In my opinion, the worst of the above group may be the WV Press Association who supposedly represents the state’s newspapers. You would think that given who and what they represent, the Association would double-check anything they published. Then again, perhaps they nicely symbolize the state of journalism in West Virginia.