Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Purloined reviews in the show-me state

The University of Missouri at Kansas City school newspaper acknowledges that its film critic, Samir Patel, a 27-year-old graduate student, plagiarized at least 93 movie reviews. As a grad student (and one who taught writing to undergrads), he knew how to do research. He copied sentences and paragraphs from 19 critics during a 13-month period. This careful analysis by efilmcritic, home of most of the critics he stole from, meticulously documents the offenses, finding only five reviews that did not steal any material from someone else. Willie Waffle, author of 27 of the stolen reviews, responds here.

This is a sad situation all around, and I am sure that Patel will be expelled and fired. But I believe Patel and the newspaper owe the critics stolen from and its readers a better explanation and apology. Patel has not been in touch with the critics and his email speaks of a "misunderstanding." And the editor's column casts itself as an innocent victim, saying, "The University News considers the plagiarism Patel's responsibility. The newspaper was let down, along with its readers. Even so, the University News regrets the distress this has caused not only to those whose material was used without proper credit, but also to the newspaper's readers. Plagiarism leaves everyone feeling misled and deceived."

One of the differences between school and the rest of your life is that you can no longer insulate yourself from responsibility for the actions of others. The editors of the paper, like the editors of the New York Times, the Washington Post, USA Today, and The New Republic must accept responsibility for their role in failing to communicate the newspaper's policies and supervise adequately.

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