By: STACY JONES
WHEN CHRISTOPHER GARLAND discovered his editor at the Malone (N.Y.) Telegram was plagiarizing in her editorials, he was shocked. But the reaction by the paper’s publisher outraged him even more.
Garland said nothing was done after he told publisher Russell Webster about the plagiarism by editor Phyllis Stewart. Garland knows of at least five editorials that Stewart plagiarized from wire copy, though he suspects more.
Copies of Stewart’s editorials ? and the wire copy she pulled from ? show Stewart copied verbatim practically entire articles, usually changing only the lead.
Garland stumbled upon Stewart’s infractions by accident while laying out the editorial page for the Jan. 25 edition. Because Stewart had not yet filed her editorial, Garland took another editorial off the wire to fill the space until Stewart’s editorial was ready. He then printed out a copy of the page.
Later in the day, Garland found Stewart’s filed copy, put it on the page and discovered “it’s the same as the one I used as filler,” he said. “I said, ‘She can’t do this.'”
Garland, at the time a reporter at the Telegram, began searching the wire for more plagiarized editorials. In one week he found three articles.
Talks with Webster went nowhere, said Garland. “He told us to ‘hang in there.’ I don’t know exactly what that meant.”
Another reporter, Bob Shea, also complained, to no avail.
Two weeks after the first incident, the count of plagiarized articles was up to five, said Garland who backed up the entire computer system so he would have a copy of everything. Before, Stewart had been deleting the wire copy articles out of the system after her editorials were filed.
“This bothered me a lot,” said Garland. “And the fact that everyone was ignoring it bothered me even more.”
Garland eventually gave his notice, leaving the paper on Feb. 21. “I always considered [plagiarism] the A-number-one sin of journalism,” he said.
Webster, claims he took care of the matter immediately after Garland brought the problem to his attention.
“I acted on it as quickly as I could. I could not announce to the newsroom when I acted on it,” he said.
“It was a management thing. They have no idea what I did,” said Webster.
Webster wouldn’t explain why Stewart, hired in July 1996, is still employed as the paper’s editor, other than to say it was a “management decision.” He did comment on her acts of plagiarism.
“She took a shortcut,” he said. “With her experience, she should not have done that. Phyllis is a career journalist.”
“You’re not in this business very long before you know that’s not the thing to do,” said Webster.
According to Webster, Stewart submitted her resignation this month and will leave the Telegram in July.
Stewart said she had “absolutely no comment” before hanging up on a reporter.
A r?sum? on file at the Telegram showed Stewart was employed at the Erie (Pa.) Daily Times for over a decade, said Webster.
?(A Jan. 25 editorial in the Malone (N.Y.) Telegram, written
by editor Phyllis Stewart, was cited by reporter Christopher Garland with being one of many that she plagiarized.) [Photo & Caption]
?Web Site: http://www.mediainfo.com.
?copyright: Editor & Publisher, May 3, 1997.