Chapter 3: Strategic Communication Ethics
Plagiarism is an issue in both academic and professional situations. The term refers to using another person’s work without proper credit or attribution. Plagiarism is a very serious offense in the strategic communication field, and is particularly egregious in journalism. In 2011, a Washington Post journalist, Sari Horwitz, was accused of directly copying content from the Arizona Republic while covering the shooting of congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. The Post issued an apology and suspended Horwitz for three months (Memmott, 2011). Horwitz also expressed her remorse and released a statement as reported by NPR:
“I am deeply sorry. To our readers, my friends and colleagues, my editors, and to the paper I love, I want to apologize. … Under the pressure of tight deadlines, I did something I have never done in my entire career. I used another newspaper’s work as if it were my own. It was wrong. It was inexcusable. And it is one of the cardinal sins in journalism” (Memmott, 2011, para. 2).
Plagiarism is not committed primarily by students or those new to the field. Horwitz was an experienced journalist who had received the Pulitzer Prize three times.
A more recent and highly publicized case of plagiarism involved a speech given at the 2016 Republican National Convention by Melania Trump, wife of the party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump. Soon after she delivered the speech, some took to social media to point out similarities to a speech given by Michelle Obama at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. News media outlets later reported that parts of the speech were lifted directly from Obama’s speech (Horowitz, 2016). Meredith McIver, Melania’s speechwriter and an employee of the Trump organization, took responsibility for the incident and stated that it was a mistake (Horowitz, 2016). McIver was not fired, and many outraged observers questioned the integrity of the Trump campaign.