Editorial: Plagiarism – The heist of ideas

(Photo from Unsplash)

Plagiarism—quite possibly the dirtiest word in academics and journalism. Oxford Languages defines plagiarism as “the practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own.” In other words, it’s theft and continues to pose a real problem.  

In journalism, plagiarism can be the theft of someone’s written work or photography. Some may ask, “What’s the big deal?” but regardless of profession, having your hard work stolen by someone who hasn’t put in the effort, is unfair, unprofessional and unethical. Watching someone profiting and receiving praise for your work is inexcusable and infuriating.  

Cullman has some phenomenal photographers and I have been in awe of their talents. I watched the photographers for the Tribune brave the elements at Rock the South and the Trump Rally to capture amazing images. They did so while standing in mud up to their calves and balancing umbrellas to protect their expensive equipment during torrential rains. They don’t go the extra mile just to have some lazy thief lift their published work and claim it as their own.  

They typically don’t mind their photos being shared, as it is nice to have their talents recognized, but don’t save it and post it as your own. Give them the credit they deserve. In the media, it is imperative that we provide the source of all photos regardless of the source. This helps the reader to distinguish between legitimate media and the imposters.  

Cullman also has some amazing writers from two accredited and award-winning media outlets. We attend countless meetings, sometimes three or more nights a week, so those in the community who don’t attend can stay on top of what’s happening in their county, schools, municipalities and civic organizations. It is important to us that the reader stays informed.  

When we aren’t in meetings, covering school events or other news, we are constantly looking for great human interest subjects. These stories often require hours, if not days, of planning, research and relationship building. We put our storytelling and writing skills to work to present it to the reader in the most comprehensible way possible.  

Imagine putting in all of those hours, only to have someone else take it from you. Now imagine seeing your work and words copied and pasted on another “media” outlet, shared by people you call friends and them commenting, “great story” or “I love this! Well written!!” I am guessing frustration would be in order. In attempting to point out the unfairness of it all, an apology is rarely the result. Typically, those involved double down instead and add, “It’s no big deal.”  

Plagiarism is more than a big deal! It’s an enormous problem and it needs to be stopped. You, the reader, should be outraged when you see it happening. Your ideas, work, writing, photography or whatever your special skill may be – they all have value only you can give. Those who put in the work should be rewarded – never the thief.  

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