Saturday, April 05, 2008

The Daily Democrat lifts yet another opinion piece. Part II

Jake Dorsey, Associate Editor
Dear Mr. Dorsey, on March 20th, 2008 I wrote a blog post at the Roughstock Journal pointing out the Daily Democrat's practice of publishing opinion pieces written by other newspapers and passing them off to the Democrat's readership as their own. I received a comment from you on my blog stating -
The opinion piece you refer to, from the San Jose Mercury News, was indeed copied. The Merc is a MediaNews Group paper; MNG is the parent company that owns the Democrat.

Newspapers, especially those within the same company, share editorials this way often; however, they are usually rewritten to some degree and are always meant to be credited to the original paper.

I will run a clarification on this issue in the March 29 edition of the paper and correctly attribute the San Jose Mercury News. Thank you for posting about this. The staff of the Democrat always appreciates readers keeping us honest.

Jake Dorsey
Associate editor, Daily Democrat
(530) 406-6231
It seems the practice of copying opinion pieces and not giving credit to its original author has continued and shows no sign of stopping.

It seems the Daily Democrat's opinion piece from April 4th "We can't afford to not fund state's colleges" was taken almost entirely from a Contra Costa Times piece published on the 23rd of March 2008.

The heading of the Democrat's opinion says -

We can't afford to not fund state's colleges
Daily Democrat
Article Created: 04/04/2008 08:56:58 AM PDT

That heading suggests to me that the piece was written by the Democrat's editorial staff on April 4th.

Mr. Dorsey, either the memo to the opinion staff has not been delivered, or the they seem quite content to pass off the writings of other talented people as their own.

I am very aware of the challenges facing small town newspapers with their limited staff and tight time lines. This however, is no excuse for plagiarism.

A response from Mr. Dorsey.

I have gone back to my editor, Jim Smith, and obtained clarification for how things work with the opinion page. I will try and be brief, and I appreciate your attention.

First, I must state that the opinion page is usually the only page in the newspaper I do not touch in any way, except for minor corrections. I leave that to Mr. Smith, in order to keep myself separate from the opinions published on that page. Mr. Smith therefore runs that page, and its contently, exclusively. For the record, during my tenure at the Democrat (09/26/05 – present) I have written two editorials — one on gay marriage, early on, and one recently about the three teens who beat up the woman at John Ferns Park.

Mr. Smith has told me that I was in error with my comment — papers actually share editorials throughout the company, and are often left uncredited. Mr. Smith only takes those editorials that he believes apply to Woodland or the county, and does not source them. He said that the Vacaville Reporter and the Vallejo Times-Herald, the two papers within our small group inside MediaNews Group, also practice this. Though I cannot find recent proof on the Reporter's Web site, the Times-Herald has copied, unsourced editorials ( from the Contra Costa Times (, which is one of two major MNG dailies in Northern California. Mr. Smith also said that even the larger papers, when they agree, share unsourced editorials, though I have no proof of this at hand.

The Times-Herald is a paper with roughly the same number of staff as us, so I assume it, like us, does not have a dedicated editorial page editor or writers. But you state it correctly — Mr. Smith basically doesn't have time to always write his own editorials five times a week, as he is busy maintaining the paper as a whole, especially when I'm off.

I've expressed my previous concerns to Mr. Smith, and we are discussing how things will operate in the future. For now, I will again run a clarification that also repeats the reasoning I gave in the above paragraph, in condensed form.

Thank you again for bringing this to my attention.....
Any time we can improve our paper to suit our readers is an opportunity for us that we take seriously.

Jake Dorsey
Associate editor, Daily Democrat
(530) 406-6231
Fair enough. Hopefully the Democrat will start using the "Media News Group" byline instead of the "Daily Democrat" byline. That would end the issue for me.

I thank both Jake Dorsey and the fabulously feathered Jim Smith for their attention and correspondence.

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