Following the revelation that one of their editors had “plagiarized whole sections of a 13,000-word music guide,” the arts and culture site Brightest Young Things has taken down all of its content for a full audit. Roy Peter Clark, meanwhile, downplays claims that plagiarism is suddenly more of a problem that it used to be:
I smell a whiff of panic in the air. My colleague Craig Silverman dubbed the summer of 2012 — for its several literary transgressions — as the “Summer of Sin.” He cites “a cavalcade of plagiarism, fabrication and unethical recycling.” But he might just as well have written about 1981 when the “Jimmy’s World” scandal at the Washington Post rocked the journalism world. He might have time-traveled to 1934 and listened to city editor Stanley Walker complain about how many young reporters were “faking” their stories.
I see no persuasive evidence that literary abuse is more common today than in yesteryear. In the cut and paste culture of digital technology, plagiarism may be easier to commit, but it is also easier to detect. Standards may appear in decline when, in fact, media crime fighters such as Silverman are simply more assertive and armed with better Geiger counters.