A couple of weeks ago, in this space, we took another media outlet and one of its reporters to task for committing one of the most egregious acts in the journalism field: plagiarism. There’s enough media bashing going around these days, what with all the claims of “us” being “enemies of the people” and peddlers of “fake news,” that we were compelled to address this matter fully.
In case you missed it, here’s the short history.
A feature story about the efforts to restore a WWII B-25C that crashed and sank in Lake Greenwood on June 6, 1944 that was written by Index-Journal staff writer Adam Benson was shared on the Associated Press wires. Media outlets that are members of AP are allowed to use those pieces and, in doing so, are expected to credit the writer and/or the story’s original outlet by name.
Benson’s story appeared on the website of Greenville area radio station WORD 106.3’s website. With a byline indicating the piece was written by Patrick Gentry of their staff.
We attempted to get the situation corrected, initially giving the benefit of the doubt that a human error had occurred, the type that can take place when one creates story files in various software programs. Our efforts — initially, at least — seemed to get nowhere until the operations manager for WORD left a voicemail indicating that the matter had been addressed, it was a mistake and the story had been taken down. Only, we had already begun to explore the reporter’s story history a bit further and found quite a few instances in which the reporter appeared to be taking credit for others’ work, going so far as to scrub where sources spoke to the media outlet by name. An example would be “Smith told The State” being altered to read “Smith said.” Such instances cannot be explained away as human error or a software issue.
After the editorial ran, we did hear from Steve Sinicropi, senior vice president and market manager for the radio station’s parent company, Entercom Greenville-Spartanburg. We had a good and civil conversation that ended with us agreeing to share the other bodies of work the reporter had seemingly claimed as his own and substantiating our belief that there existed a pattern, that Benson’s work appearing under the station’s reporter’s byline was not a one-time offense or mistake.
Within a few days, Sinicropi called our offices again to let us know that he and others on the management team had delved into the examples and, when they confronted the writer with the body of evidence he offered nothing in his defense. Suffice it to say they took appropriate action and they wanted us to know.
We appreciate that. And, after our lengthy attack and defense of our journalism and our ethics, we wanted you readers to know that WORD 106.3 did the right thing. That’s only fair and just. They too are aware of how such incidents erode news outlets’ credibility and now vital, critical even, it is to regain and retain that credibility.
We thank Steve Sinicropi and WORD for their diligence and proper action. We don’t gloat over what happened, but we are glad to have helped weed the journalism garden.