Press plagiarism

Another newspaper columnist found to have plagiarized Wikipedia

A year after Wikipedia editors discovered an article had been plagiarized in a newspaper, last week another columnist became at least the second person to lose their job after plagiarizing from Wikipedia.

Jacqueline Gonzalez, a columnist at the San Antonio Express-News and an assistant to the paper's editor, resigned after the plagiarism was discovered in her "Watchdog" column for Christmas Day. The newspaper determined that she used information from Wikipedia without attribution. The material in question, presumably taken from the Christmas article, concerned the origin of 25 December as the traditional birth date for Jesus Christ.

The case resembles one at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, which dismissed reporter Tim Ryan last year after Wikipedia editors found a number of cases in which Ryan appeared to have plagiarized, including from Wikipedia. In contrast to the Star-Bulletin, the Express-News appears to have caught the plagiarism on its own, rather than having it pointed out to them. The discovery of Gonzalez's plagiarism was made by another employee of the paper.

After Gonzalez admitted to this initial error, the Express-News had its research department examine a batch of her previous columns. Matching Dragons flight's observation that "a writer is never caught for their first act of plagiarism", on Tuesday the investigation turned up two additional cases in previous weeks. Gonzalez also resigned Tuesday, 2 January.

The Express-News situation was resolved relatively quickly over the course of a holiday weekend. At the Star-Bulletin, three weeks elapsed between the time the paper was initially informed and when the dismissal of Ryan was announced. One source reported that a suspension had initially been imposed, but additional instances of plagiarism continued to be discovered.

In these two situations the consequences became public, but they are not the only cases in which the media has likely plagiarized Wikipedia articles. Possible instances previously reported include news agencies Reuters [1] and Agence France-Presse [2], along with German magazine Der Spiegel [3] and an Australian community newspaper group [4].

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