Over a year ago, I issued a challenge to the Gazette-Virginian columnists to quit reprinting forwarded emails. Needless to say, they didn’t change their ways and this past week, Paula Bryant (the editor) got busted for reprinting copyrighted material.
On March 31st, Gazette-Virginian Editor Paula Bryant’s weekly column consisted of an email forward called “Confessions of a Police Officer”. Although it’s been deleted from the GV’s website now, you can still see it at Google’s cached version. That essay was written by Jill Wragg, a retired Massachusetts police officer who published it on her blog.
Wragg actively (and rightfully) defends her copyright on her original writing as you can see here. In this article, you can see that Officer Wragg politely explains the copyright violation and asks that either the copyrighted matterial be deleted or that proper attribution be given and her original writing be published. Officer Wragg is fully entitled to the protection of copyright laws as is anybody who does any form of original writing.
Let’s get back to the Gazette-Virginian issue. In Paula’s column that was published this past Wednesday, you’ll find this…
We have received numerous positive comments about the essay we printed last week in this column. On Monday we had an opportunity to speak with the author of the original essay entitled “Confessions of a Police Officer,” Retired Officer Jill Wragg of the Yarmouth (MA) Police Department. The version we reprinted was slightly altered before being submitted to us. For those who wish to view the entire essay, please visit Officer Wragg’s blog at http://uneflic.blogspot.com/2007/05/confessions-of-beat-cop.html
“Confessions of a Police Officer” is copyrighted and cannot be used or shared without Officer Wragg’s permission. She can be contacted at JKWragg@yahoo.com.
Looks familiar, doesn’t it? Yep, Paula Bryant got busted for the republication of copyrighted material without permission. She can paint it as receiving “numerous positive comments” all that she wants, but it’s a clear case of a copyright violation. What makes this even more ironic is that this “retraction” is in the middle of two other forwarded emails that she has re-published yet again! Look down to the last words of the column and you’ll find…
…contact CenturyLink at the number listed on your bill…
Paula, you haven’t learned a thing from this, have you? Copying and pasting forwarded emails is a lazy & sloppy way to throw an article together. Doing it without research and attribution (if needed) is just wrong. You can’t disclaim your way out of unintentional plagiarism by saying “hey, it was a forwarded email and I didn’t know”. You’re a journalist and you know that you need to review your sources and material before publishing. A newspaper editor like you should be embarrassed to publish a column that consists of forwarded emails as it’s a poor use of your writing skills. Your use of other people’s work without attribution due to lack of source checking is damaging to your journalistic reputation. You’re lucky that Officer Wragg is playing nice about this and you know it.
Based on this incident, I suggest that you enact a moratorium on you & your columnists on using any forwarded emails as column material. People like to read original material. Give them what they want.