Thursday, June 22, 2006

WebProNews and Plagiarism, Part Trois

Here is the latest and possibly last chapter in my personal plagiarism saga. Thanks to the tireless efforts of Jonathan Bailey, proprietor of the Plagiarism Today blog, I have learned a little more about what went on over at WebProNews and its parent company iEntry these past few weeks.

(For you WitListers who haven't been following the saga, it appears I have been turned into a research assistant for one Alex Bard, alleged staff writer and serial borrower of published works from the New York Times, Associated Press, CNET, and others. For the details, see the WitList entries here and here.)

It seems the folks at WPN were shocked -- shocked -- to discover plagiarism going on in their offices, and had no idea anything of the sort was transpiring until the letter from PC World's attorneys landed on their doorstep. I am finding it hard to get my brain around this nugget of information, given the blatant nature of Bard's theft, the prior accusations of plagiarism against other WPN staffers, and the other apparent copy-and-paste artists on their staff, but let's take them at their word for now.

It also appears Mr. Bard has been disappeared. WPN refused to tell Bailey exactly what happened, but assured him that "we would be seeing no more of [Bard's] writing on any iEntry site." Sure enough, nothing with Bard's name attached has been posted on WPN since they received the letter on June 9, and his old posts have been taken down. If you Google his name you can still find cached copies, but the live links have been removed.

Perhaps Mr. Bard was fired, or maybe he's buried on that horse farm along with Jimmy Hoffa. I am fighting the urge to believe he never actually existed, though if you spend any time searching for information about him (and both Bailey and I have), you'll be shocked to learn how little there is to learn. He was a relatively new hire at WPN, and apparently had "presented an excellent resume with strong writing samples and appeared to be a great author." (Given that he probably stole some writing samples from me, I'll take that as a personal compliment.) But he has absolutely no Internet footprint outside of iEntry, and for a technology writer that is downright perverse.

So let's review. This guy, who from his photo appears to be pushing 50, shows up with a great resume and writing samples and applies for a job with a technology news organization, and nobody Googled him? Nobody said, 'Gee, I wonder what other editors think of him, maybe I'll call them'? He just shows up with a Pee-Chee folder filled with other people's work under his arm and they say "Great, you're hired"?

Like I said, this story is not going down very easily. I'm gagging on it. And even if it all were true, how iEntry handled this situation is disturbing and dishonest. Firing or at least reassigning Bard was a good move; burying that fact was not. WPN should have notified its readers that it had inadvertently republished work done by others, and apologized publicly -- as the New York Times did with Jayson Blair, or the Washington Post with Ben Domenech. They should have also apologized to me and the other writers whose work was filched, as well as the publications that employ us. In other words, if iEntry were truly a legitimate news organization, they would have acted legitimately. They would have done the right thing.

Just because you publish on the Net, or work for a third-tier news service in Lexington, Kentucky, doesn't mean the normal rules of decency and ethics don't apply. Maybe iEntry will eventually learn this. I'm not putting any money on it.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Maura Welch said...

Dan, no sooner to I blog a response to your last post about the plagiarization of my plagiarism story, but now you have a new chapter. You are on the case. Is it possible that Bard is merely an avatar for the real plagiarist? This is becoming downright fun.

12:49 PM  
Anonymous Starkadhr said...

Let me be the first to point out..

I'm no "award winning journalist".

I'm a college student - not even a journalism student. But I did want to weigh in on a couple of things.

First and foremost you are absolutely positively 100% justified in being pissed at this Bard schmuck. If he ripped you off (and he clearly did) he should be run out of the business entirely.

That said, I don't really get all the iEntry angst - particularly in light of the fact that they apparently did get rid of the guy. What did you want? Some fingers in an envelope?

You say they told you they were shocked or whatever. Well, what's so hard to get your brain around there? Was Times shocked about their plagiarist? Was the Post shocked about theirs? Yeah, I'd say they were... So again, I thik some of your vitriol is a little misplaced. I don't know much of anythign about iEntry. I do know WebProNews a little bit. I've been subscribed to it for several years now (5 maybe?) and I have always found them to be pretty good for SEO/search engine/ webmaster kind of stuff. I didn't even know they wrote about remote controls and gadgets - which makes the whole story even more bizarre. I do know they carry coverage of all of the major search conferences (which is why I read it) and it's generally pretty good (I did know they were in Kentucky - thats weird in and of itself).

I can't say that I'm an every day reader or anything but I don't even know the Bard guy. Most of the stuff I see in their newsletter is from David Utter and Jason Miller. That just makes me think all the more that they had a new dude in there that screwed up. Then he got busted and they fired him... So what's the problem?

You talk about wanting a public apology. That's your complaint? The fact that your 'about me' starts with the sentence "I'm an award winning journalist" tells me all I need to know about where that's coming from. Like I said, I'm not a journalist or a journalism student -but they taught us about plagiarism in high school.

Of course, they also taught us about libel. What was it Nietzsche said about hunting monsters? What happens when you start getting notes from their lawyers from you accusing them of being sued by "a covey of lawyers" and so forth. Do you know for a fact they're being sued right and left? That is potentially very damaging to a companies reputation.

Have you talked to any of the iEntry people yourself?

Like I said, I'd want the guy fired if he ripped off my work. I agree with you 100% on that one. It's all the stuff beyond that that just isn't too flattering on your part. Be a bigger guy.


You know, as I'm reading this, I'm relatively sure you aren't going to let it post. That'd kinda suck though. I spent way too much time typing it.

11:58 PM  
Blogger dt said...

Starkadhr --

Thanks for posting. You now hold the record for longest response to anything on the witlist. But I wanted to respond to a few of your points, just for the record.

First, why would I not let you post? Because its critical of me? Not my style, my friend. I like a good clean fight, personally.

Yes, they did get rid of Bard, and no, I don't want fingers in the mail (well, maybe a thumb). But I do think a public admission of guilt and a vow to do better is what's called for here. And I think all the other award-winning-journalists (AWJs) out there would agree with me.

It would show that their intention is not to plagiarize. Burying the body and covering their tracks merely shows that their intention is to not get caught. As I said, it's what a legitimate news organization would do. And I think it especially behooves iEntry to do so, since as far as I can tell their business is largely based on summarizing news found by others. They're repeaters, not reporters.

There's a place for that kind of digest on the Web, but to do it right you need to follow some rules about identifying and linking to sources, and they don't always do a good job of it. Hence the ease with which plagiarism seeps onto their site. There doesn't seem to be an editor there saying 'who'd you talk to? show me your notes.' They didn't talk to anyone. There are no notes. (I might be wrong, and if I am I will surely here about that.) But that model, and the prior accusations made against reporters at WPN, would argue for the editors there being on the lookout for potential plagiarism, and not having to wait for the plagiarized parties to complain. Hence my "shock."

I never said iEntry was being sued or would be sued. I did say they'd be descended upon by lawyers, and I'd be surprised if that didn't already happen. PC World didn't sue them; they sent a cease and desist letter. That's what I meant. It's a standard first step by organizations when they find someone may have violated their copyrights.

peace,

dt (aka The WitList)

9:13 AM  
Anonymous Starkadhr said...

Fair enough Dan.

All I’m saying is that it hasn’t been my personal experience that webpronews is a junk pub. I was moved to reply to this, by the way, when you intimated that readers of webpronews were small minded or dumb (I don’t know what the quote was but it was not particularly flattering).

If you do a search like:
http://www.google.com/search?domains=webpronews.com&q=SES&btnG=Search&sitesearch=webpronews.com&sitesearch=

or

http://www.google.com/search?num=50&hl=en&lr=&safe=off&domains=webpronews.com&q=%22search+engine+strategies%22&btnG=Search&sitesearch=webpronews.com

Those kinds of articles are what i read webpronews for. You can try it with some of the other search conferences like webmasterworld or whatever too and get some decent results. You also will find the majority of those kinds of articles to be reported not repeated.

I just follow em for the search stuff, if I want gadget info there are lots better places. When they do what they do well, they are actually pretty good and I don’t in any capacity feel like a “A less astute reader” (there, I looked it up that time) for subscribing to it.

As for the blog herald thing you link to… that’s total crap in my opinion. That guy didn’t even win that argument in his own blog as far as I’m concerned. That completely smelled of some other motivation to take a shot at webpro to me.

So, here’s what’s probly your second longest reply. So I’m long winded… From my seat, I think you’re right completely to be pissed, I just am not really to the point of condemning the whole outfit for the dipshit actions of some noob. The fact that the guy that actually wronged me suffered consequences would do it for me. Assuming of course they did can the guy.

1:20 PM  

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