Monday, July 30, 2012

Journalist Fabricated Bob Dylan Quotes in Book

Writer/author Jonah Lehrer's dramatic ethical fall (see the July 10, 2012 blog post) now includes creating false quotes from legendary singer, Bob Dylan that were included in Lehrer's latest book, Imagine: How Creativity Works ("Jonah Lehrer, Caught Making Up Bob Dylan Quotes, Resigns from The New Yorker," New York Magazine, July 30, 2012). Then Lehrer proceeded to lie about his dishonest act when journalist Michael C. Moynihan questioned him about the source material for the quotes. Lehrer explained away the lack of a trail for the quotes by telling Moynihan that the material could be found in "unreleased footage" of Martin Scorsese’s documentary No Direction Home and other sources that don't exist. Lehrer has resigned his staff writer job at New Yorker.

Discussion Questions: 

  1. Lehrer's credibility is seriously damaged due to his fabrication and lies. Are readers of his other books and articles going to suspect that his other writings may be totally or somewhat false? Why or why not?
  2. Can Lehrer regain his credibility so that he can secure another job as a journalist? Or should he become strictly a fiction writer? Why or why not?
  3. What should Lehrer do to atone for his deception, especially to the libraries, individuals, and groups that purchased some 200,000 copies of his latest book?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

European Leader Accused of Plagiarism

While two Romanian academic panels agree that Prime Minister Victor Porta clearly plagiarized parts of his doctoral paper, the government-appointed National Ethics Council (NEC) says he simply didn't include footnotes and relied solely on a bibliography to cite sources ("Conflicting Verdicts on Romanian Prime Minister's Plagiarism," Nature, July 20, 2012). Porta is charging that the investigation is politically motivated, while his critics note that the entire committee of the NEC was replaced with new members in June by a Porta cabinet official after another government leader was accused of plagiarism.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Should Prime Minister Porta resign if he is found to have plagiarized his doctoral paper by two of three investigative bodies? 
  2. If he was found to have inadvertently omitted footnotes, should he be allowed to correct the paper and resubmit it while being able to keep his job?
  3. Should a Prime Minister be held to a higher standard for academic integrity than any other doctoral candidate? Specially, if he was found to have been careless in citing sources, should he lose his PhD and his job?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Is Self-Plagiarism Ever Acceptable?

Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin and journalist Jonah Lehrer received recent criticism for reusing old content that they wrote themselves without acknowledging the recycling ("The Self-Plagiarism Scandal," Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, July 4, 2012). The article and accompanying audio file goes on to state that journalists like Lehrer are held to a higher standard to develop original content on a regular basis than creative artists like Sorkin. While Sorkin is known for catchphrases that are employed in his different television shows, Lehrer reproduced paragraphs of his writing in different publications without crediting himself.

Discussion Questions:

  1. If you wrote the material, should you be able to reuse it? Or can you recycle it only if you cite yourself?
  2. If you are getting paid for your writing skills, what would your employer say if you turn in a column or script that has recycled content? Does it matter how much of the material is being reused?
  3. As a college student, should you be able to turn in one project to satisfy the requirements of two different classes? Why or why not?