A plague of plagiarism (exerpt)
Published: May 25, 2002
|Follow these principles and avoid falling into a chasm of copycats|
Stephen E. Ambrose, Louis W. Roberts, Doris Kearns Goodwin, the Rev. Edward Mullins and John L. Casti never would have suffered such public opprobrium if only they had learned from Dave Barry. Now what, you might ask, could a syndicated columnist whose only place in the pantheon of literature is as the undisputed king of booger jokes possibly teach such eminent figures as, respectively, the bestselling chronicler of World War II; the editor and translator of Sources for the History of Cyprus, Vol. VIII: Latin Texts from the First Century B.C. to the Seventeenth Century A.D.; the Pulitzer Prize-winning presidential historian; the Episcopalian rector of Christ Church Cranbrook, located in Bloomfield Hills, Mich.; and, finally, the author of Mathematical Mountaintops: The Five Most Famous Problems of All Times?
Simple: Dave Barry always scrupulously attributes the source of any true fact that wanders into his column. As we now know, the other writers listed above are, shall we say, less inclined to give credit where credit is due. When Dave Barry comments on, for example, an exploding commode, he not only names the newspaper that published the incident, but also the reporter who wrote the article--and even the "alert reader" who passed it along.
It's a long-standing principle that any material borrowed in writing must be fully attributed to its original author. Yet episodes of plagiarism, that most slippery and discomfiting of literary crimes, have a way of confusing our thinking about even the most straightforward of ethical boundaries. That's especially true of the spate of plagiarism that emerged earlier this year.