On its web page Feb. 3 the Ravalli Republic ran a note from publisher Kristen Bounds revealing that the paper plagiarized six editorials over the last three months. The same note ran in the Republic’s print edition the following day.
Bounds wrote that the Republic published four editorials from other newspapers verbatim and without attribution, and that two other editorials incorporated “significant passages from commentaries that first appeared in other newspapers.”
Following discovery of the pilfered opinions, editor Jenny Johnston Howard resigned, the publisher’s note said.
When reached for comment on Feb. 4, Johnston Howard said she accepts full responsibility for the incident.
“There were some mistakes made by people at the paper, and it’s my responsibility to make sure those mistakes don’t happen,” she said, adding, “Some of the mistakes were mine.”
Johnston Howard declined to elaborate on the detailed circumstances leading to publication of the plagiarized material.
Publisher Bounds did not return calls to answer questions about how the paper learned of the plagiarism, or which publications the editorials came from.
Dr. Roy Peter Clark, a Senior Scholar for the journalism watchdog group the Poynter Institute, says plagiarizing six editorials goes beyond a mere ethical lapse; it represents a lack of morality.
“A bank teller doesn’t have to be taught not to steal from the till, and an editor shouldn’t need to be told not to remove whole pieces from other newspapers,” he says.
The Republic’s note failed to mention which editorials were fraudulent, but the Independent has learned that one, “A step forward for open government,” (Jan. 8) came from the Milwaukee Sentinel Journal’s Jan. 3 edition. Another, the Republic’s Jan. 24 editorial, comes directly from fellow Lee Enterprises-owned publication the Helena Independent Record (“Open government trumps all,” Nov. 29).
Neither paper receives credit.
Clark says such thefts are easy, and tempting for many.
“In these days, at this time, a person can take something from the Internet and with a few key strokes it becomes their own,” he says.