KSL’s romance addiction story: Plagiarism, inspiration, and/or misdirection
Twitter was abuzz yesterday over an article at KSL.com which equated a woman’s desire to read romance novels with a man’s addiction to pornography. Unsurprisingly, romance readers were seriously annoyed, and a #romancekills hashtag was trending for much of the afternoon. Sarah Wendell wrote an excellent piece at Smart Bitches Trashy Books (now updated to include new information), and even MediaBistro paid attention.
KSL is part of a media company owned by the LDS (Mormon) church, which as far as I know has no outright ban on romance novels, although Mormon-friendly romances tend to limit the steam content. Therefore, while the article was annoying, it struck me as a predictable overreach by a conservative media outlet and I didn’t pay much attention to the kerfuffle. Last night, however, Carolyn Jewel pointed out that the article seemed to share a journalistically unhealthy relationship with a 2007 opinion piece in the Tucson Citizen that compared, you guessed it, romance reading and porn. I ran a document comparison using Copyscape (thanks Dhympna!) and discovered that several sentences were identical.
At first the copying looked like a cut-and-dried case of plagiarism, albeit a small amount. But when I looked more closely, I noticed that one sentence was a quote that had been used verbaim as a quote in the KSL piece. A second sentence from the opinion piece was presented as a quote from the opinion piece author in the KLS article. You can compare the two here and here.*
I am not a journalist, but is it considered appropriate to imply that a writer has interviewed the subject of a quote when she has only cut and pasted the subject’s written words from a different article (without attributing the source)? It seems pretty clear that Kimberly Sayer-Giles never interviewed either Slattery or Feldhaun but instead lifted their words from the original opinion piece by Feldhaun. But reading the article, it seems as if both had directly spoken (or emailed) with Sayer-Giles. And shouldn’t Feldhaun get credit as the author of the article which at the very least “inspired” the KSL story?
*This pdf is from a reprint of the article at GoUpstate.com, the site for the Spartanburg Herald-Journal. It has a Universal Press Syndicate tag, so I’m assuming it was properly licensed. The content is identical to the Citizen opinion piece.