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Plagiarism Software Spared The Times an Embarrassment ?

Could Plagiarism Software Have Spared The Times an Embarrassment?
Craig Silverman, the editor of Regret the Error, a Web site that reports on accuracy and honesty in the press, says most plagiarism by journalists is caught only when someone complains. That's what happened last month at The Times, which had to endure the mortifying experience of having a bitter cross-town rival, The Wall Street Journal, point out the theft of half a dozen passages from one of its news articles.

Silverman thinks The Times could have avoided the embarrassment with computer software designed to ferret out plagiarism by comparing news articles about to be published with millions of published works on the Web and in various databases. Such software is in wide use in the academic world, but has few takers in the news industry. Silverman said it makes many journalists uncomfortable because it seems to assume guilt.

Most journalists who commit plagiarism, like Zachery Kouwe at The Times, say they did not intend to take the words of others. "If it really is an accident," Silverman argues, "let's catch the accident before it gets into print." You can read more of Silverman's case.


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