Would Jordan Fox Plagiarize?

Would Jordan Fox plagiarize? Surely not, right? The star of the Hunt For Truth Serial is a hardworking journalist, and honesty is her middle name.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines plagiarism as the act of stealing and passing off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own.

But 17-year-old author Helene Hegemann might have a bone to pick with those who say plagiarism is a problem.

Helene Hegemann is an author in Berlin who published, to wide critical acclaim, a novel called Axolotl Roadkill. Maybe you’ve heard of it. Though she’s only 17 years old, the novel isn’t her only success. According to the New York Times, she’s also written a screenplay and had it staged, and she’s had a movie released in theaters.

Axolotl Roadkill

Problem is, chunks of the novel are taken from another novel called Strobo.

…Or is it a problem?

Despite the stolen material, and despite a juror saying the judging panel knew about the accusations, she still became a finalist for a $20,000 book prize at the Leipzig Book Fair.

17-year-old Hegemann explains how she sees it:

“There’s no such thing as originality anyway, just authenticity.”

-Helene Hegemann

She says both new and old sources of media are so flooded with information nowadays, that as long as the author/writer/creator uses multiple sources and references of inspiration to mix the material, it shouldn’t be considered plagiarism.

Do you agree?

There’s been some discussion about this recently in the journalism business too, as Fareed Azkaria, CNN anchor, used paragraphs from scholar Fawaz Gerges almost word-for-word, without attribution.

To me, plagiarism is nothing to be taken lightly. A writer must draw the line between using someone else’s work for inspiration, and using it verbatim or even almost verbatim. Making money by stealing another’s work is, well, simply not okay. Pirates steal my work all the time. I don’t like it. Not even a little bit.

The director of a prestigious journalism school in Paris seems to agree with me. Bruno Patin commented that “Plagiarism is a very serious affair in journalism,” in response to the executive director of the school, Sciences-Po university, facing accusations of plagiarism.

Regardless of whether plagiarizing becomes acceptable behavior or not, I don’t think Jordan Fox will ever be inclined to lift work from other sources without attribution.

What do you think? Is plagiarism inevitable in the digital age? Or should it still be monitored and punished?

Meanwhile —

Caffeinate and Carry On!

Diane Capri

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6 Responses to Would Jordan Fox Plagiarize?

  1. andrew hewitt January 29, 2015 at 9:34 am #

    My understanding of plagiarism is the direct use of someone elses work/words without attribution. However I have noted that due to the volume of material available through the various media sources that it is inevitable others’ ideas and or themes are used. I believe that unless a deliberate use of anothers’ material that it is not plagiarism.

    • Diane Capri January 29, 2015 at 7:21 pm #

      That’s interesting, Andrew. I agree that plagiarism generally requires a “passing off of another’s work as one’s own,” but I’m not sure how that can actually be done without intending to do it. “Accidental plagiarism” is fairly rare. It happens. But it’s not usually what we mean when we talk about plagiarism. Usually accidental plagiarism results in an immediate apology with the matter is brought to the copier’s attention, too.

      In this case of Ms. Hegeman’s book, she claims that what she did was intentional copying from others, but she says her version was not plagiarism at all because she copied and mixed up sections from several other writers.

      Do you agree with her?

  2. Marna January 29, 2015 at 1:54 pm #

    When I was in school I had to write an short story for English class. I copied it word for word out of a book. I got an A and rave review from the teacher. To this day (over 50 years later) even tho I can’t remember the book, it still bothers me that I plagiarized.

    • Diane Capri January 29, 2015 at 7:22 pm #

      Marna, you have a strong moral center to be bothered by this for such a long time.

  3. Gordon G Gudgeon January 29, 2015 at 6:41 pm #

    I agree. You must always reference your source if you are using someone else’s work and if it is word for word then use quotes.
    Plagiarism is stealing!

  4. Lynette M Burrows January 29, 2015 at 7:10 pm #

    Plagiarism is stealing. Period. For a writer, words and how we string words together is our product. We are not talking about themes and ideas here. We are talking about the words crafted to a specific meaning.

    Short passages copied with attribution are acceptable. If you copy large passages without express permission from the author, even with attribution, it is the same as walking through a department store and taking things without paying. You would get arrested for that. If you take an iPhone and put a different cover on it and call it yourPhone, you would get arrested for that, too. Stealing.

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