Actually, he was canned for doing a lot worse than that. The reporter in question, Leigh Donaldson — an award-winning columnist and "New York Times Fellow at the International Longevity Center USA" — flagrantly plagiarized a story of mine that appeared at AlterNet last month. He has also pilfered material from other reporters' stories at AlterNet and other venues for years, as a fellow journalist friend of mine discovered via some online detective work. (See examples below.)
From my story, Donaldson nabbed several passages nearly verbatim as well as quotes and entire interviews with people he did not interview himself. No way on earth could this have happened by accident. Imagine how long it takes to Google key phrases in order to find published stories on the topic in question (in this case, crimes against the elderly). Then imagine how long it takes to read those stories and cut and paste portions of them. Then imagine how long it takes to shape your story, then read and reread it before submitting it to your editors. Then imagine the time it takes to read the edited version before it goes to press. If you really wanted to attribute the lifted material or to avoid being a plagiarist, somewhere along that chain of events you'd be able to do so.
DownEast reports that "while Donaldson never appropriated any of Rufus’ prose, he did use her ideas, her research, and her conclusions without giving her credit.
"In a phone interview, Donaldson called the incident 'regrettable' and added, 'I dropped the ball in terms of neglecting to give attribution. It was totally unintentional. It’s unfortunate, but I’ve written this column for more than three years, and this has never happened before. I’m usually very careful about attributing.'"
I think not.
Donaldson's story (now taken offline), which appeared on August 2 and was headlined
“Increased vulnerability to scams is a disease of old age," includes interviews with Melodye Kleinman of the National Telemarketing Victim Call Center and with Florida detective Joe Roubicek, neither of whom Donaldson interviewed. I had interviewed them and used their quotes in my story, which appeared at AlterNet on July 17:
It was Detective Roubicek who informed me of the plagiarism in the first place, having been directed to the Press-Herald piece via the free Google service that notifies him via email when his name appears online. All the quotes from these two people that appear in Donaldson's story were lifted from mine.
Also in that story, Donaldson wrote:
Yet another "doorstep scam" involves fake gardeners or handymen offering to do "necessary repair work," on a cracked driveway or broken tree limb.
Yet another doorstep scam entails "gardeners" or "handymen" offering to do "necessary" repair work --on cracked driveways, say, or dangling half-broken tree limbs.
Following instructions, recipients send checks that they believe are processing fees to faraway post office boxes. These relatively small amounts range from $5 to $50 but they add up.
Following "instructions," recipients send checks that they believe are processing fees to faraway post-office boxes. The amounts are small -- from $5 to $50 --but they add up.
Donaldson's pilferings from other stories by other writers -- also done without attribution, but that's the least of his problems -- include these, but they're not the only ones:
"Getting police officers involved in immigration work is not like training for traffic stops," contends Dr. Richard Weinblatt, who is a former police chief and deputy sheriff and worked on the New Mexico border. "There are so many nuances to immigration law, so many types of status, classifications of people, different types of visas.
Dr. Richard Weinblatt, a former police chief and deputy sheriff who once worked on the border in New Mexico, agrees. ... Getting police officers involved in immigration work is not like training for traffic stops, says Weinblatt. "There are so many different nuances to immigration law, so many different types of status, classifications of people, different types of visas."
While many studies indicate that bonding and seeking out social connections are intrinsic in a healthier, more meaningful life, the larger question is how these traits actually ensure our survival and enhance our status among our peers?
While studies show that bonding and making social connections can make for a healthier, more meaningful life, the larger question some UC Berkeley researchers are asking is, "How do these traits ensure our survival and raise our status among our peers?"
Normally, I am a quiet and spaced-out and nearly invisible person who shuns any and all conflict. Like most reporters, I am happy to share information, sources, ideas and leads with my colleagues, if they ask. We do such favors for each other all the time. But sneaking around and snatching people's work without their knowledge is something else entirely. By what pretzel logic might Donaldson have thought that this was okay? Did he believe that it was somehow especially okay to steal from progressive Web-only venues?
How ironic that my story from which Donaldson stole was a story about stealing.