San Antonio ‘Watchdog’ Exits Amid Plagiarism Charges

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By: E&P Staff

The “Watchdog” columnist for the San Antonio Express-News has resigned after being accused of plagiarizing material from several Web sites, including Wikipedia.

Jacqueline Gonzalez, the readers’ help Watchdog columnist — and also administrative assistant to Robert Rivard, the newspaper’s longtime editor — resigned Tuesday. She had worked for the Express-News for three years.

A fellow employee had discovered that she used information from Wikipedia in a Dec. 25 column on the birth date of Jesus, without attribution, the paper reported today.

This led to a probe of 25 columns Gonzalez had written, which turned up two other examples of material taken from Web sites without attribution, the newspaper said.

“Nothing is more important to us than the trust of our readers,” Rivard said in the paper’s report. “They have to know with some certainty that we act swiftly and unequivocally in the face of such a transgression.”

The Watchdog section remains on the paper’s Web site but the most recent entry now comes from Dec. 4, 2006, nearly a month ago.

The Express-News revealed today that in a Nov. 20, 2006, Watchdog column about wedding insurance, Gonzalez “plagiarized whole phrases and only slightly rewrote other information from a Web site of the Insurance Information Institute.

“The other example was from a Dec. 4, 2006, Watchdog column in which the research staff found Gonzalez had lifted information about identity theft from the AES/PHEAA Investigative Services Web site. AES is an acronym for American Education Services. PHEAA is the acronym for the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency.

“The Express-News ethics policy is clear on attributing sources.”

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