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D-News puts column on hold after plagiarism discovered

Richard, Linda Eyre likely will return; ethics expert says lifting was “egregious,” not a mistake.

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In an email to The Salt Lake Tribune, Richard Eyre took the blame for being the one who "flubbed."

He said the couple had decided to use some columns this summer "highlighting and commenting on other family-focused writings that we liked."

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"We very carelessly failed to fully attribute and use quotation marks around sentences from these sources," Richard Eyre said. "We and the newspaper have apologized to those we insufficiently quoted. There is really no excuse because while we are not professional journalists (we write our columns as unpaid volunteers) we are professional authors, and we certainly should have been more careful — as we will be in the future!"

Eyre added that "we also want to stress that these oversights were completely inadvertent. We certainly have no problem with giving others credit for their ideas and comments — in fact, that was the exact purpose of these particular columns."

However, the Aug. 7 column on family ties originally did not contain a single reference to Perry.

Kelly McBride, a senior faculty member for ethics at the Poynter Institute and co-editor of a new book on journalistic ethics in the 21st century, said writers accused of plagiarism often claim to have had a "note-taking problem."

"These are fairly egregious examples of plagiarism in that it’s impossible to do this by mistake," McBride said. "The only way you can have that much identical material is if you copy and paste. I think you can identify intent by looking at the length of the plagiarized information."

In the Eyres’ case, the situation is particularly disturbing, she said.

"This is a column telling people how to behave," McBride said. "It suggests a certain hypocrisy that the paper would allow them to continue as columnists."

Secondly, as accomplished professionals, the Eyres "certainly know what the expectations are when it comes to citation" — which they showed by sourcing some information in most of the problematic columns, McBride said.

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Apparently, "they didn’t want to have these really long quotes that demonstrated how heavily they were relying on source material rather than coming up with original thought," she said. "That is endemic of intellectual dishonesty that is a real problem in our culture today because it is so easy" to pass off comments or observations made by someone else as one’s own.

"Columnists always have this strain on them to say something original," McBride said. "And the reality is you don’t necessarily have to be original as long as you are honest about where your ideas are coming from."


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