Why is Plagiarism Tempting to Journalists?

We usually hear the word plagiarism in relation to academic work. Students learn about plagiarism in reading and writing classes. But also in journalism, plagiarism is a significant topic. Journalism students learn about the Code of Ethics, established by the SPJ (Society of Professional Journalists), which gives clear guidelines on attribution and how to treat sources and information properly. It has become self-efident not to plagiarize in journalism, but in reality, the profession gives many tempting reasons to go the easy way.


Pressure in the News Room

In times of 24/7 access to information and constant updates of breaking news, reporters working in a newsroom face nonstop pressure to produce content. Especially news websites have to deliver the most recent updates on all kinds of topics to keep up with competing news outlets. It is not easy to create unique contents on such a regular basis, which makes it tempting to take another news site’s content without crediting to the original. Reporters and editors work in such a fast paced environment that carelessness often drowns in the hastiness.


Freelance Journalism

More news publications hire freelance journalists instead of hiring own journalists. Freelance journalism enables reporters to cover topics within their interest range, which usually creates more in-depth reporting on specific issues. They are also a cheaper way to cover international news, instead of sending own reporters to foreign countries. However, freelance journalists don’t necessarily have as much at stake as employed journalists if caught with misconduct, which makes them prone to plagiarism. To verify a freelance journalist’s work, a plagiarism scanner is a highly recommended way to investigate if the journalist’s content hasn’t been taken from somewhere else.

Convenience of Turning Secondhand Sources to Firsthand Sources

Firsthand sources are interviews and quotes obtained from the journalist him or herself. Secondhand sources are information obtained by a third party and need to be credited if used by a journalist. Firsthand sources are more valuable than second hand sources but more work to obtain. The temptation of taking quotes from a third party publication, without crediting to it, can be very high, especially if the other publication was able to conduct an interview with someone who is difficult to access. No matter for what reasons a journalist would take someone else’s sources, without crediting, the journalist plagiarized and therefore steals someone else’s content.  


Journalists are professionals who should be proud of their voice and their ability to report while maintaining ethical values such as integrity and credibility. If plagiarism spoils these values, a journalist loses the crucial foundation of the profession. A deceptive journalist won’t ever be hired again and faces the end of his or her career after getting caught stealing others’ content.

If journalists aren’t sure whether they have used a source properly, they can easily run their articles through a plagiarism scanner and learn about their unintentional misconduct – before an editor does – which will have serious consequences. News publications on the other hand can use a plagiarism scanner to check the work of reporters. Published plagiarism will hurt a publication’s reputation and question its originality. Either way, it is commendable to make use of a plagiarism scanner before risking officially getting caught with misconduct.

About Cati Mayer

Cati is a communications manager and passionate writer. She grew up in Germany, finished her studies in communications and media studies, journalism and public relations in the United States and is now an advocate for human rights, particularly education. She has been involved with multiple Silicon Valley startups.

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