The media has a duty to patrol themselves

by Beacon Staff • October 12, 2005

t journalists until the media can trust themselves.

,"AT ISSUE: Plagarism in the field of journalism.

OUR VIEW: The public cannot trust journalists until the media can trust themselves.

The Berkeley Beacon unknowingly published two articles during the last academic year which significantly borrowed from other works. Plagiarizing-defined by www.dictionary.com as "taking someone's words or ideas as if they were your own"--is both unprofessional and unethical. It must not be tolerated in journalism or in any other field as it is extremely damaging to the plagiarist, the public and the profession.

Maintaining integrity through factual, honest reporting is of the utmost importance for all journalists, no matter what stage of thier career they are in.

Whether one fabricates quotes, people and events, or lifts materials from others, the very act of plagrism-in any form-defies the concept of fair and accurate reporting.

According to a 2003 survey conducted by USA Today in conjunction with CNN and The Gallup Poll, only 36 percent of the public believes that news sources "get the facts straight." In an age when the vast majority of the population is already distrustful of the media, we as journalists have a responsibility to try to nurture the perception of our field, not damage it further. A survey done by Psychological Record in 1997 found that 36 percent of undergraduates have plagiarized written material in one form or another.

Although some may claim that this is a victimless crime, nothing could be further from the truth.

The irony of plagiarism is that the perpetrator is also the greatest victim. In highly publicized cases like that of The New York Times' Jayson Blair, reporters and the news outlets they represent compromised the trust invested in them by the public by taking credit for work that was not theirs.

After the Blair incident, The Times' leadership came under fire and Blair, who plagiarized and/or fabricated over 30 articles, was blacklisted from the discipline of journalism.

As a result of last semester's plagiarism, The Beacon's staff made a collective decision to change our editing policies to prevent a similar incident from happening in the future.

We have implemented a scupulous fact-checking system to ensure that our credibility will not be called into question as it was previously.

Discovering that one of our writers had been dishonest caused us a professional liability and personal disappointment.

Trust is the foundation of the relationship between journalists and their readers.

If the media violate this trust, it can be nearly impossible to rebuild.

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