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Jul 17 / King Kaufman

ESPN’s ‘Wikipedia problem’: A reminder of B/R’s plagiarism policy

Our friends at Deadspin love to beat up on Bleacher Report, but they also love to beat up on ESPN. You may have caught them hammering ESPN entertainment writer Lynn Hoppes in the last few days for plagiarizing Wikipedia.

“Hoppes is, shall we say, over-reliant on Wikipedia as a research tool,” is how Deadspin’s Isaac Rauch put it in a piece that went on to detail more than a dozen instances of Hoppes copying wholesale from Wikipedia or paraphrasing so slightly that he might as well have just copied.

This is the sort of thing that will get you fired from B/R if you’re an employee, or your publishing privileges removed permanently if you’re in the Writer Program. It’s fine to use Wikipedia for background material, but you have to follow the information back to the primary source that Wikipedia cites and attribute that if you use it. And you can’t just copy the text.

ESPN has told Deadspin and the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education’s Richard Prince that Hoppes’ actions were “an example of journalistic laziness, and we’ve addressed it.”

Perhaps addressing it means Hoppes has been fired, but it looks more like a suspension. He hasn’t written for since his July 12 ESPYS report, and he hasn’t tweeted since that day either, but his Twitter bio still reads, “I work for ESPN with an emphasis on the E….”

This seems like a good time for a review about plagiarism, attribution and citing sources. Here are some Bleacher Report Blog posts covering these subjects:

  • KarloSilverioSevilla

    Hello, sir.

    A content moderator told me to avoid linking to Wikipedia (I don’t plagiarize it. I just put links to it for sports personalities in my articles, until I was told…). He said I should find a more credible source.

    So, what’s our policy re linking to Wikipedia?

    Thanks and best regards,

    • Karl M

      personally speaking, I don’t use wikipedia as a link for the simple reason that the first thing people think is that “you don’t know anything about team/player X, you just wikipedia’d them!”

      maybe that’s something related to the fans of my area (football/soccer), but if I do ever have to use it to check a stat, a date or anything like that, i’ll often spend up to five minutes finding a different site with the same information to link into my article, just to avoid using wiki.

      • KarloSilverioSevilla

        Haha! Well, I don’t link to it anymore, though I still refer to it.

        Having been an in-house writer for a Wikimedia-based website before, I believe that Wikipedia’s “official” editors are pretty vigilant in checking out contributions and edits of just about everyone. Though, at times they don’t seem to act fast enough. And of course they don’t have a mechanism to prevent anyone from posting any misleading or even libelous information there. The question is how long such inputs linger on an article there, before they correct it.

  • Doug Mead

    I use Wikepedia for background information only, and never as a primary source of information. I find there are just too many inconsistencies in factual information….

  • Scott Carasik

    always better to overcite and let an editor fix it than undercite.

  • Ken Kraetzer

    If a story is issued by AP, do you reference them or the publication it appears in?