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Probe reveals that editor stole content for features

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An investigation by The University News into articles written by Nick Moore during his three and a half semesters with the paper revealed that the contents of at least 18 stories were partially or completely plagiarized from various internet sources.

The U. News fired Moore on Tuesday, one day after the investigation's findings were finalized and presented to the paper's editorial board. The plagiarized articles were also removed from the U. News' Web site, www.unewsonline.com.

The investigation was launched on Thursday, Feb. 24, after Moore attempted to reprint, under his own byline, an article that had been written and previously published by another U. News editor. The plagiarism, which would have been his second from the U. News itself, was discovered before it was printed in the Feb. 24 issue.

A subsequent investigation revealed that Moore had succeeded in stealing other writers' work and publishing it as his own as early as October 2003, shortly after he joined the paper.

The U. News said it plans to issue apologies to all the organizations from which Moore plagiarized.

"This is the most serious problem that the U. News has encountered in my three years with the paper," said Editor in Chief Andrew Ivers, who hired Moore as features editor last April. "Nick violated the trust we've worked to establish with our readers, and we need to rebuild it."

Moore issued a written statement Wednesday afternoon that read, in part, "I want to apologize to the staff of The University News for the mistakes I've made that will cause them future problems. My actions have seriously damaged The University News' credibility as a news organization. I also apologize to the writers whose words I used as my own, in part or in whole, or without giving proper attribution."

The statement concluded, "This is something that I will not be able to forget; I'll have to carry it with me the rest of my life."

At the time of his dismissal, Moore was serving as the paper's Features editor, a position that afforded him a seat on the U. News' editorial board. Previously, he had worked as a staff writer for the Features section.

"In my 30 years' experience, this is the first time that The University News has encountered this type of problem," said the newspaper's adviser, Avis Meyer, Ph.D. "And the best thing we can do is let our readers know, as fully and quickly as possible."

He added, "For some people, this probably seems like a minor problem, but for staff members who invest their lifeblood in the paper, it's big."

The investigation, which was conducted by five U. News editors, revealed that 18 of the 41 articles Moore wrote for the newspaper contained the work of other writers. Although Moore wrote a handful of news articles during his time with the paper, all 18 of the plagiarized articles ran in the Features section.

Moore plagiarized from 39 different Web sites in all, including webmd.com, the internet medical reference, from which he stole articles on two separate occasions.

His sources varied widely, from online blogs and travel sites, to student newspapers at Boston College, Loyola University-Chicago and Georgetown University.

More than half of Moore's Sept. 2, 2004 article about instant messaging was taken from a piece originally published on the Detroit Free Press' Web site, and his entire Nov. 18, 2004 article, "Bush pardons Biscuits and Gravy," was taken from the White House's official Web site.

The first three articles Moore wrote that contained plagiarisms, which were published between Oct. 16 and Nov. 13, 2003, contained some of his own reporting. However, two of those articles contain information from outside sources that he failed to credit.

Of the next four counterfeit articles Moore submitted to the paper between Jan. 19 and Mar. 4, 2004, two were almost completely plagiarized.

In a third article from that period, "Other universities burdened by financial crunch," Moore used whole paragraphs taken from articles published in The Boston College Chronicle, The Georgetown Independent and The Phoenix, a student newspaper at Loyola-Chicago.

During the 2004-2005 school year, Moore put his name to two articles that were partially plagiarized, three that were nearly completely plagiarized and six that were totally plagiarized.

Two that were nearly completely plagiarized contain only a few original paragraphs, tacked on at the beginning or the end of the stolen article.

One of the articles that was completely plagiarized ran under the name of another U. News reporter, after Moore convinced the individual that the features page would look better if his byline were not the only one on it.

In two completely plagiarized articles published on Sept. 23, 2004, Moore stole large sections of "A Brief History of the Internet," an article by Barry Leiner and eight other authors, including scholars at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of California-Los Angeles, as well as a handful of other computer science professionals.

The U. News was unable to ascertain where "A Brief History of the Internet" was originally published, but it was readily available on the Internet Society's Web site, www.isoc.com.

Ivers said the U. News has no established fact-checking system that might have caught the plagiarized articles before they were published.

"A great deal of trust is bestowed upon our writers, and especially our editors, to do honest work," Ivers said. "Our copy editors often catch factual errors before they are printed, but we have no procedural means of determining whether or not an article is plagiarized. We obviously need to amend that," he said.

He added that the U. News is considering a policy of using internet search engines to verify, prior to publication, that each article is the original work of the writer who submitted it.

The U. News said it will suspend its Features section for at least two issues to find a replacement editor.

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Probe reveals that editor stole content for features