At FAU, if I get caught plagiarizing a paper, I’ll get an F. It would go on my transcript and on a repeat offense, I could get expelled.
But if I do it at The Boca Raton Tribune, I’ll get a paycheck.
Three weeks ago, I wrote this story about an alleged gang rape involving an FAU student.
A week later, The Boca Raton Tribune posted a similar story. If it looks familiar, that’s because sections of it are literally the same, word for word, as mine. I’ve been plagiarized.
Here’s a photo of the Tribune’s version, written by Fred Hamilton. Highlighted in yellow are sections taken from my story — three paragraphs in total.
On Monday, May 18 the UP notified The Boca Raton Tribune about Hamilton’s plagiarism. University Press advisor Neil Santaniello sent an email to the paper’s Managing Editor, Pedro Heizer and editor, C. Ron Allen.
“[Hamilton’s story] included three paragraphs that appear to have been lifted word-for-word — or almost verbatim — from the UP story, but with no attribution or credit given to the University Press or Emily, the author,” Santaniello said in his email.
“The University Press requests that the Boca Raton Tribune take the appropriate action for this apparent violation of journalism ethics, including correcting the story to credit the UP as the original source of that particular information and perhaps adding a hyperlink to the UP article.”
After an additional email from Santaniello and phone call brought no real response, I decided to try for myself.
On May 21, at 2:44 p.m. I called the Tribune office myself. I asked to speak with Fred Hamilton. “I don’t know anyone by that name here,” replied the receptionist. Fifteen minutes later, I called again, asking for Heizer, but only reached his voicemail.
Not His First Rodeo
Hamilton — who has contributed to the Tribune since 2013 — used my words and took credit for them, and I wanted to find out more about this guy.
So I looked into it.
It took me less than an hour and some Googling — I cross-referenced lines in other stories Hamilton wrote and checked datelines on the matching articles — to figure out that Hamilton’s stolen words from other publications before, including the Sun-Sentinel, Wired and the Daily Beast. This was not a fluke.
Here are some examples I found:
What Hamilton Wrote: “Bumper-to-bumper traffic is becoming Boca Raton’s collective nightmare, and like the movie Groundhog Day it repeats on a daily basis.” from “City Council Hopefuls Speak Out On Traffic Woes” published in The Boca Raton Tribune on March 4, 2015
Where It Originated: “Bumper-to-bumper traffic is America’s collective nightmare, and like the movie Groundhog Day it repeats on a daily basis.” from “America’s 75 Worst Commutes” by Clark Merrefield for The Daily Beast on January 18, 2010
What Hamilton Wrote: “Because the technology is so new, few of these Big Data labs exist across the country and Khoshgoftaar said it was “very competitive” to get the grant.” and “The grant money will also be used to upgrade the computer systems in FAU’s existing Data Mining lab, officials said. It could be four or five months before the upgrades are in place, officials said.” from “FAU Gets Grant to Step into the Big Leagues of Big Data” published in The Boca Raton Tribune on Oct. 15, 2014
Where It Originated: “Because the technology is so new, few of these Big Data labs exist across the country and Khoshgoftaar said it was “very competitive” to get the grant.” and “The grant money, along with another $297,000 kicked in by the university, will be used to upgrade the computer systems in FAU’s current Data Mining lab. But it will be four or five months before the upgrades are in place.” from “FAU gets $600,000 to create Big Data lab” by Dan Sweeney for the Sun-Sentinel on Sept. 22, 2014
“If these plagiarism accusations play out, I think the saddest part, at least where my article is concerned, is that the professor was so willing to talk,” Dan Sweeney, the author of “FAU gets $600,000 to create Big Data lab” told me in an email.
“I got those quotes from Professor Khoshgoftaar within an hour or two of requesting an interview. And he would have kept going longer if I’d let him. He was eager to talk, proud of his work. It wasn’t like an antagonistic interview, where getting good quotes is like pulling teeth.”
Sweeney wrote his article on FAU’s Big Data grant over a month before Hamilton used the same quotes without attributing the Sun-Sentinel.
To journalists, ‘plagiarism’ is practically a mortal sin. And as a student journalist, and a student member of the Society of Professional Journalists, to have to deal with it like this is pretty disappointing.
“Never plagiarize. Always attribute” is bullet number 18 out of 35 in SPJ’s Code of Ethics.
People keep telling me “imitation is the greatest form of flattery,” when I tell them what’s happened to me this month. Well in this case, if the “imitation” means stealing a student journalist’s words, I think it’s pretty pitiful.
Consider me unflattered.