By: M.L. Stein
SACRAMENTO BEE television critic Bob Wisehart has resigned in the face of charges that he plagiarized parts of an Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel column.
It was the second time Wisehart had been accused of plagiarism. In 1987, he was suspended from the paper for five months for a similar incident.
In the latest episode, Bee executive editor Gregory Favre said: “A critical ethical mistake has been made. This is a very unhappy moment for me and the Bee.”
Wisehart declined to discuss his forced resignation with E&P.
Bee ombudsman Art Nauman wrote that similarities in a column by Wisehart and one by Sentinel TV columnist Greg Dawson were discovered after the mother a Sacramento television station executive sent her son a clipping from Florida of Dawson’s column on how he would change TV news if he ever became a news director.
The Sacramento executive showed it to colleagues and posted it on the station’s bulletin board.
When Wisehart’s column appeared on the same theme, the Bee was alerted by telephone, fax and letter of the similarities in the two columns, according to Nauman. He noted that Wisehart and Dawson have known each other since 1972, when they worked together in Boca Raton, Fla.
The ombudsman wrote: “Wisehart’s general theme, approach, a number of his proposals for changing television and some of his language were lifted from Orlando.”
Nauman reported that Wisehart told him that since the column was primarily entertainment ? a “throw-away” ? the fact that it was derivative could not have harmed readers.
“But the matter is indeed of critical importance to the Bee and to its journalists,” Nauman continued. “Their credibility rests on the perception of honesty, the foundation stone of the newsgathering profession . . . . If a newspaper isn’t seen as basically honest, it is nothing.”
Dawson expressed sorrow over Wisehart’s departure and said he regarded him as “one of the finest writers I have ever worked with. And I still consider him a good friend.”