Monday, September 12, 2011

Bloggers and writers should beware of poor attribution as well as plagiarism

Washington Post ombudsman Patrick B. Pexton has another piece Sunday Sept. 11 on the high standards newspapers must demand of external submissions, “Giving credit where credit is due”, p A13, link. The online title is more specific, “Plagiarism, or poor attribution?”

When the substance of a submission to a paper leaned heavily on one older source, especially one more difficult to find online, clear attribution is a must.  Bloggers “get away with” hyperlinks without much other bibliographic information, but newspapers cannot print links, and even online versions of stories sometimes don’t have all of them.

The problem in the piece refers to a Post article by a freelancer (Anna Lewis) about the early role of women in computer science.  A University of Texas professor maintains that he was not properly credited.

I did notice early in my own IT career that women did get hired into well-paying jobs much more than outside society at the time.  Sperry Univac was particularly progressive with women as managers in the early 1970s (as it competed with IBM in the mainframe market).

Pexton asks at the end, “So, plagiarism and theft? No, but sloppy attribution, yes.”  Bloggers who accept assignments even with “online newspapers” should bear this in mind.

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