Live Blogging: Plagiarism & Ethics Lecture

The Attendance Clicker Question of the Day is: Britain’s first female Prime Minister died this week at 87, who is she? Answer: Margaret Thatcher! Most people got it right.

Alright, now we’re getting into it. Motto of the day: The ethical standard you apply to your work is your responsibility.

We’re talking about plagiarism, people. And this is serious stuff. The mood has stiffened and Steve’s tone has dropped.

We’ve been told not to plagiarize over and over throughout our lives, but there’s also a more abstract concept pertaining to plagiarism you might not know about. You have a certain right to your own ideas called your “intellectual property” which belongs to you and it is plagiarism if someone uses them illegally.

Key rule: If you’re not sure, DON’T!!!! (in huge red letters)

Good advice: When in doubt, ask your editor.

If caught plagiarizing at Mizzou, you could be expelled very easily and it can ruin your reputation as a journalist.

Did you know music and video clips have strict limits on how much you can use in work of your own? It is important to demonstrate “fair use” and always obey copyright.

Plagiarism can also come in the form of made up a story or sources. Guys, it’s so not worth it. People WILL find out. Don’t give into competitive pressure! A grade or a job is not worth plagiarizing someone else’s material to meet a deadline or enhance you work.

No one is paying attention.

They probably should be… I bet a good handful will plagiarize on their final project and not even realize it.

Copying information from the internet: It may be copyright-protected and the information may very well be wrong. Do your own research!

Did you know Mizzou checks for plagiarism? If this lecture hasn’t scared you into never plagiarizing yet, maybe knowing there’s a program called Safe Assign under “tools” in Blackboard will? Many teachers use it; I know I’ve had a few assignments run through it (successfully).

So we’re going to take a poll with our clickers: How many of us have used Safe Assign in a class?

This is an exceptionally interactive lecture. He did not tell us the results…

So many Facebook screens…

Every publication can do unethical things:

National Review altered a cover photo and changed the words on signs, which caused quite a reaction among readers who figured it out. The cover signs say “ABORTION” but the real signs read “FORWARD.” The lesson from this is the public will call you out on your credibility & it will hurt the legitimacy of the publication in the future.

abortion               forward

I’m not sure why they thought they would get away with this… There are so many people who are in the picture and who were at the event that could vouch for the original.


Even National Geographic has been known to have altered photos. In the cover to the right, they squeezed two pyramids together so they would both fit on the vertical layout and create a more compelling image.

I get it, plagiarizing is bad, but I’m not sure this “everybody does it” spiel is the best way to sell it to us… I guess they’re trying to show the severity of the consequences but…

When you do plagiarize, an apology is in order. Check this out from NPR.

Aaaand there goes the first cell phone ring of the lecture. Steve looks pissed.

More examples show that once you get caught plagiarizing for a publication, it often becomes national news and you aren’t remembered for much more after that.

Award winning wildlife photographer Terje Helieso was outed for a bunch of fraud animal photos composed of stolen images, which caused him a lot of embarrassment:

“If I was the only one to suffer for my actions, it would have been fine, but there is also my family and friends and my fans. I’ve made a fool of myself, basically, and I’m going to have to live it down,” Helieso told Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet

Now I need to go on a little rant here. I have the same reaction to notable journalists who are later exposed for plagiarizing or manipulating their work as I do for famously decorated athletes who are later outed for abusing steroids during their career. It’s sad, disappointing, and it makes me angry. These are talented people who somehow fall into this jeopardizing act. I think the worst part is being misled as an innocent reader or fan, sometimes for years. It’s a betrayal that makes us question society and the integrity of anything we thought we knew. I’m done.

Just some more DON’TS to keep in mind: Don’t add sources that don’t exist. Don’t alter a picture on content or tone. Don’t edit a video or audio to change the meaning of someone’s words.

Photoshop can tempt you… Don’t give in!

LA Times

Steve asks, “Do you think this is a real picture?”

Hmmmm I’m not a Photoshop expert, but given the subject of the lecture so far… I’m gonna say probably not!

I’m right. At the LA Times, a reporter altered two different photos and combined them to get the image he wanted. Someone noticed duplicated people in the final image and he was caught.

Yes, it might make a better picture, but it tells a story that isn’t true and ultimately, it cost him his job and LA Times’ credibility.

The Sacramento Bee” is another example of two morphed photos that got someone fired.

Not all altered pictures are so blatant. There can be altered colors or lighting.

To avoid manipulating photos unethically, what you want to do is correct for what the EYE saw first. Bring it back to what you saw when you took the photo. Enhancing color here and there is one thing, but when you start changing colors completely, you cross a line.

“Is this real?”firefighter

All of my money on no.

The photo of the firefighter silhouette at right was taken by Patrick Schneider of The Charlotte Observer. Schneider enhanced the color of the sky to give the sun more of a halo and but the sky was originally brownish grey – completely different! He was fired after the photo was busted when it was entered into a contest.

World Press Photos is a worldwide contest that is actually ok with altered photos, but a publication probably won’t be ok with that kind of manipulation. They sure look nice on the web, but if you tried to print it, all of the editing would look like mud. It’s beautiful, but it’s not real.


“What do you think is wrong with this one?”

Hmmm is it manipulation? Am I close?

Lance Armstrong got a little amped up about Outside Magazine photoshoping numbers on his plain t-shirt and tweeted about it.

Yeah you know what else is bullshit, Lance? Doping, lying, and a few other things, but that’s another blog for another time.

double lightning

What are the chances of capturing the moment of lightning striking twice? Very slim, indeed.

“Is this real?”

But WAIT, it’s actually a REAL PHOTOGRAPH! Whoa, you got me there, Steve. Very tricky. Apparently, with evidence of 4 second exposure and videos confirming the incident, the photo proved to be bonafide.

dead santa

There’s also the issue of user generated content. It is a challenge that news organizations face because while they are sometimes funny, they’re still manipulated, so they have to be careful when using them.

So kids, don’t plagiarize, because you WILL get caught and DIE. Don’t plagiarize content from the internet, don’t plagiarize in your stories or photos, just don’t do it. Okay, promise? Okay.

Now on to a new segment: Would You Run These Pictures?


“Would you run this?”

The photographer of this photo later committed suicide because he was so distraught that he didn’t help the girl.

Distance is sometimes a determining indicator of ethics in whether or not to run a controversial photo. If it happened closer, the answer is typically no, but the further away the photo was taken from the publication, the more “ethical” it is to publish.

Fun Fact: In foreign countries, photographers try to work together because it’s safer. But it may look bad when you have many people taking the same photo of a tragedy.

“Would you run this?” The second photo caused a bit of a debate for the first.

dead girl 1
dead girl 2

The last photo we are looking at today is a unidentifiable man falling to his death during the attacks of 9/11. The Columbia Tribune debated whether to run the photo. At the time, Steve had argued they should run it. His reasoning is that no one knows who it is, it is not disturbingly graphic, and it illustrates a huge choice he had to make – to burn or jump. He thought readers needed to see it and it was almost “poetic.”

“Would you run this?”

falling man

Thanks for ruining my day, Steve. As if the genocide/anti-abortion expo on Lowry Mall today wasn’t disturbing enough…

On that note, HAPPY MONDAY!

More famous altered photographs that fooled us and photo tampering throughout history.


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