A little rant about plagiarism

I went on a little rant on my personal Facebook page last night after I watched so many people downplay the accusation that Melania Trump may have copied part of her speech from an address by Michelle Obama in 2008. This post, like my other one, is not about politics. I will never post my political views here. It’s about a subject that angers every legitimate journalist and writer that has their work stolen by someone else.

As I said in my original post, if I were selling cars and someone stole one from me people would not even question that it was a theft. But if you copy someone else’s words or ideas some people seem to think that is okay.

Most writers and communicators have a plagiarism detector we use. Before I send copy to a client, I run it through a program then I send a screen shot of the report with my copy.  I pay less than $15 a year for a plagiarism detector. And there are many programs  you can use that are free!

But here’s a simple rule to avoid being accused of ripping off your copy. If you use someone else’s work, give them credit! I have no problem with people who use my work as long as they acknowledge me or my organization as the source.

I agree with some of the pundits who say that some of the things said in the speech are commonly said by many people. In 2010, I wrote a sentence for an article only to discover I had written the same sentence in 2007 for a different client. I ended up rewriting the article even though I had plagiarized myself.

Having your work ripped off by someone who is just cutting and pasting is very frustrating. One day I watched a colleague work for nearly an hour on a graphic for a story that was posted online. I put an invisible watermark on the photo. Sure enough, I was alerted another news site had used our graphic and the story on their site without giving us credit.

The media and all communicators offline and online have a big responsibility and as a 26-year veteran, I still take it seriously. I understand mistakes are made at times but own your mistakes and put safeguards in place to make sure they don’t happen again.


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