Thursday, April 24, 2014

Ways to avoid the appearance of plagiarism

Few writers are likely to intentionally steal the work of others, but these days appearances are sometimes more important than what actually occurred.
The computer practice of cut and pasting was initially welcomed by the media to improve productivity. Soon it became clear that sometimes it led to lazy writers, or writers under pressure from editors, to cut corners.
The Associated Press reached a point where it was trying to make writers say something different than other publications even when it was silly. AP had the right to pick up stories from its members, which made the whole thing more confusing. The long-standing rule had been to not give yourself a byline if you were cut and pasting or even just taking the reporting and rewriting it
How many ways are there to say that 100 people died in a plane crash. It has to be in the lede, as the first paragraph is called.
In some cases, trying to make a story look unique makes it weaker.
It is generally accepted that material from another news organization can be picked up, if credited, and if the writer gets some information from other sources. This is called “reasonable use.”
It partly depends on whether the information is exclusive, or comes from a source speaking to the media as a whole. Exclusive stories need more crediting.
And attempts should be made to confirm with other sources.
With a breaking story it all becomes more complicated, but the rules still exist.
One way to minimize the risk is to limit cut and pasting to quotations, which should be attributed. Obviously what a person says should not be changed it quotation marks are used.
A good way to start is by not copying from a document into a word processor. Write the story on a separate screen in your own words.
If there is concern a story can be run through a plagiarism checker.
Others may be looking at your stories, keep that in mind.
Headlines also should be different than the source uses. While it cannot strictly be considered a copyright infringement it will start people talking.
Yes, it will take longer. Unless a writer is working for a news agency and under pressure to get a dozen stories out each day then the time should be taken to avoid ripping off other writers.
How to avoid plagiarism

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