U of Wisconsin Student Paper Fires Editor for Repeated Plagiarism

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An editor at a University of Wisconsin-Madison student newspaper was fired after repeatedly plagiarizing stories from other media outlets, the paper’s editor-in-chief said Tuesday.

The Badger-Herald fired its state editor Nov. 30 and planned to run an apology in today’s editions for his actions, Editor-in-Chief Taylor Hughes said. He declined to name the state editor or divulge his year in school.

“We basically don’t want to ruin this guy’s life. There’s no reason to make it so a 20-year-old can’t learn from his mistakes in the future,” Hughes said.

The state editor took excerpts of stories from the Associated Press, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the Wisconsin State Journal, a Madison daily, and used them in his own stories without attribution, Hughes said.

The state editor had written more than 100 stories for the paper. The paper’s staff so far has found parts of about 10 stories he likely plagiarized, Hughes said.

The newspaper first learned of plagiarism in one of the editor’s stories before it went to press on Nov. 29, Hughes said. The state editor said he lifted the material because his sources hadn’t called him back.

The editor was suspended that night and fired the next morning after the staff discovered more plagiarized stories as part of a broad review of his tenure at the paper.

Hughes said the state editor focused heavily on state government and elections. He generally plagiarized stories that had first appeared several days earlier, he said.

Hughes said the state editor position was a stressful one because he had to write many stories as well as go to class.

The newspaper is independent of the university and receives no student fees to operate.

Given that relationship, it was unclear what punishment if any the student may receive from the university, said James Baughman, director of the UW’s journalism department.

Baughman said he can’t recall a similar situation in the past 27 years he has been at the university.

“It’s a shame. I don’t think our students have ever been better, both intellectually and in terms of their dedication,” Baughman said.

“It besmirches a lot of very conscientious kids.”

The Badger Herald was started in 1969 as a conservative newspaper providing alternative coverage of the anti-Vietnam war protests on campus.

Publishing 16,000 issues, five days a week, it claims to be the largest fully independent daily campus newspaper in the country employing an entirely student staff.

Hughes said staffers are required to read a guidebook that includes ethics when they’re hired.

Next semester employees will have to sign a single document dealing with plagiarism, he said.

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