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Reeder: Plagiarism may no longer be a big deal, but it’s still stealing




By Scott Reeder - 

SPRINGFIELD – I’ve never quite understood the appeal of plagiarism. Is it laziness or a lack of creativity that motivates people to steal from someone else? Maybe it is both.

Plagiarism came to the forefront recently when someone writing a speech for Melania Trump stole the words of Michelle Obama. Some folks blame Melania for cheating, not the speechwriter.

They can’t forbear the idea of a possible presidential spouse being a cheater.  I guess that’s why they are supporting Hillary Clinton. After all, her spouse would never cheat, now would he?

But stealing someone else’s words is hardly a new phenomenon. Back in 1988, Joe Biden cribbed the speech of a British politician and claimed it for his own. Biden even misappropriated the Brit’s heritage when he claimed to be the descendant of coal miners.

One of my best friends from high school was working on the Biden campaign back then. Biden’s initial reaction to being discovered wasn’t one of shame but rather to have my buddy conduct research on the Biden family tree to find a coal miner.

My pal wasn’t successful and ultimately Biden had to own up to his indiscretion.

We live in a world where such improprieties cause much clucking of tongues, but little lasting damage. Biden, after all, became Barack Obama’s pick for vice president.

Plagiarism is a common transgression.

When I was a student I worked with a writer for a prestigious publication who stole quotes from the Chicago Tribune. When I told my journalism professor of the man’s literary trespasses, I was met with a shrug.

Years later, I was a weekend editor at a Midwestern newspaper when I was editing a story from a reporter whose usual prose was an assault on the English language.

I rewrote sentence after sentence on a story about an annual festival. Then suddenly I found myself liking what I read.

I read several paragraphs without changing a thing.I found myself saying, “Maybe she’s getting better. She wrote it the way I would.”

Then it occurred to me, I had written it. She had cribbed the words from the festival story I had written the year before. When I confronted the reporter I was greeted with a blank, non-comprehending stare.

“Thou shall not steal,” may be the eighth commandment, but when it comes to words, schools, parents and society as a whole are doing a poor job of teaching write from wrong.

 Scott Reeder is a veteran statehouse journalist. He works as a freelance reporter in the Springfield area and can be reached at [email protected].


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  1. You left out the part where your Presidential candidate cheated on all his wives except the last one. Very proudly….. lol
    I love how your support of Trump now means you need to write articles like this where you lower your standards to accommodate a candidate so crass and gutter low you still have many more articles to write to convince people this should be our new standard. LOL. “Vote for crap… we lowered our standards so you don’t have to feel badz”
    Oh the morals you all have. Then you pick Trump and prove to everyone you have NO morals. LOL. Clintons stuff is comes from the imagination of the GOP the very people you claim to reject for lying so much to you… Yet somehow everything they say about Clinton is true. LOL. Trump’s issues are here and now and happen every time he opens his mouth.

  2. Adolf the national socialist and Josef the international socialist were both good at propaganda. The fact that both were atheists helped their low moral values. Read the Hidden Hitler a book in the Highland Park Library. You will than see how low his morals were.
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