Tim Ryan dismissed

Reporter who plagiarized Wikipedia gets dismissed

Tim Ryan, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin reporter whose plagiarism was recently discovered by Wikipedia editors, has been dismissed after additional instances of plagiarism were reported. This brought his tenure to an end last week after more than twenty years at the newspaper.

Ryan, an entertainment reporter who has worked for the Star-Bulletin since 1984, as well as writing for other publications during that time, was found to have copied material without attribution in multiple articles dating back as far as 2001, drawing from a variety of online sources. The plagiarism was originally reported in The Signpost two weeks ago and later picked up by a local news website, the Hawaii Reporter. Reporter editor Malia Zimmerman published a story on Tuesday, 10 January, pointing to two more articles by Ryan with passages that matched verbatim to content on other websites.

Zimmerman also noted what proved to be Ryan's last article for the Star-Bulletin, a 28 December column published after the plagiarism had been discovered but before news of the case spread. In the column, Ryan thanked a number of publicists and other sources and commented, "To write "Reel News," I usually can't name any sources because there could be serious repercussions to them." He added, "All who have helped me write this column -- and you do know who you are -- I thank you for your contributions and trust."

Officially, Star-Bulletin editor Frank Bridgewater initially indicated that any disciplinary action against Ryan was a confidential matter, but Zimmerman reported that according to her sources, he had been given a one-month suspension. She added that the Star-Bulletin had earlier been running an advertising campaign touting the paper as the source of "Truth" from among the state's news outlets, with Ryan featured prominently in one such ad.

After the Hawaii Reporter's discovery of additional problem articles, the Star-Bulletin announced Ryan's dismissal in its 13 January edition. In a statement, Bridgewater acknowledged that six Ryan articles contained unattributed content from other sources, including one case found during the paper's investigation that had not been publicly identified before. The statement also pointed out that Ryan's stories "did not include inaccurate information or any fabrications."

Craig Silverman, whose Regret The Error blog reports on corrections and retractions in the news media, commented on the Star-Bulletin's response: "This is the correct course of action, and it's good that the paper lists the plagiarized articles and placed corrections/Editor's Notes in them." Other industry coverage appeared in Editor & Publisher and on Jim Romenesko's site for journalism news, Romenesko. Rob Malda also posted an item about the incident on Slashdot, where among other discussion it prompted a form of humor that might be called recursive plagiarism. And Talk Stink, a blog focusing on Hawaii, ran a cartoon depicting a mock interview with Ryan.

Wikipedia editor Calton, one of those who participated in the original discovery of Ryan's plagiarism, commented that he felt bad for Ryan, "Twenty years at the paper down the tubes, for stuff he should have known better about."

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