Ethics In Writing Articles In A Relatively Unsupervised Multi Column News Service Milieu
I informed our Publisher, Rob Kall that I wanted to write this but first wanted his okay to do so because it does look at some problems authors and others encounter herein. Therefore, here are my views of a few problems and solutions.
Writing For Tenure
In academia, one quickly learns what one should have known before entering the hallowed halls of learning; copycatting is unethical and immoral. The reason for the moral and ethical constrictions is, or should be obvious, but not always to non-professionals. Being "cute" is a luxury reserved for the Mrs. Skeffington's and for others who never attained a full measure of self-esteem, and a few who never attained post juvenile maturity, as well as those who seek the spotlight regardless of whose work they pilfer as long as their fans never know.
In some cases levity and jocular lightheartedness in the writing of serious and lethal subject matter is hardly appropriate or commendable.
The Film Shattered Glass (based on a true story) is a wonderfully written, directed and acted Independent film about a young fellow with a talent for entertaining, who wrote semi-fiction for a political, publication which was labeled by it's very placement in it's home periodical which was non-fiction, as such. The problem? His writing was a apparently a mix of fiction and non-fiction without letting his readers or his employers know he preferred to write fantasy, fiction and semi-fiction, entertaining, but by placement/location, inappropriate.
There are inherent obligations thrust upon those who write in a Milieu such as ours here at OpEdNews.com.
The first obligation is that in order to display some cognizance of the meaning of ethical behavior, writers have to check in themselves a need to be at the forefront every moment. Thus finding a good story somewhere on one's own home site (in this case, OpEdNews.com), or a good venue, or style or approach, or technique, one should think carefully rather than rather than mimicking it, (In order to impress their friends and relatives, or otherwise why?). Thus, one would, if indeed one was ethical, ignore the impulse to exploit the skills of a colleague, for one's own edification and exaltation. That behavior is too much like the behavior of those we are supposed to be railing against at OpEdNews.com.
This means that if one wishes to write upon a subject already published by a colleague, unless one has something entirely new to say, one should refrain from duplicating what is already written. Of late, I have seen several articles in which an author merely lifted/ changed the order or sentence structure, adjectives, verbs to say nothing of, indeed, the syntax, content, context, persona, personal touches, and other parts of the Gestalt, of an already published article here on OpEdNews.com.
If one wishes to write on the same subject, as I have done a few times, one should out of ethical truth, simply approach it from an entirely different perspective, using one's own research, one's own data, one's own slant on a different aspect of the case/situation, not a virtual copy of what has already been done.
In my training in academia, science, theology and journalism, there was very distinct law of the institution, which made it mandatory that if anyone uses a "Coined Phrase," (sans crediting the initiator), or writes using information acquired/discovered by others, therefore pirating the work of a colleague, they had/have dug themselves a deepening, hole.
If one chooses to write on the same subject as an existing article it must be from a different point of view, or slant, and must be the result of one's own avid research, and one must give credit to any original sources. I learned further in my years in academia that respecting the boundaries of originality was not only ethical, it was mandatory and bridging or ignoring such ethical considerations meant, or could mean loss of tenure and ultimate dismissal and/or a lawsuit for plagiarism.
I usually read most of the Top Editorials and a sampling of the other categories and have encountered what I would call either very unskillful attempts at covering plagiarism, or no attempt whatsoever, to cover it, but virtual copies of articles others have written, or unique figures of speech others have coined, or other dead giveaways of less than honest offerings.
Is it possible that two people could write on the same or similar subject from the same point of view? Certainly, but not with the exact sources, details, incidents, idiom, language, linguistic nuance, style, technique, witnesses, quotes and direction. It doesn't often happen on a major print publication in which full time editors scan every word and phrase for just such purposeful or incidental problems. However, we here are on the honor system, because we have volunteer editors who cannot be expected to police every single article, every word and phrase, so we must be more judicious. Foolish, dis-informed, ill-informed and uninformed people making comments upon our articles are always going to be a problem on such sites as this, but they are not as bad as some of the other abuses I outline herein by colleagues, pilfering one another's work.
I try to read everything in this publication, which is in any way related to that about which I wish to write and if I see even a cursory resemblance, between what I read and what I have written or am going to write, rather than post-empting a colleague, I either significantly change my article, or take an entirely different approach to the subject. Further, I have even, have more than once, and dumped my own article before submitting, rather than duplicate/post-empt what is already up.
I am especially careful about getting permission or giving proper credit to the author, for using "Coined Phrases" or research, before repeating them. I also understand that like minds often think alike and more than one person can come to the same conclusion, but not often on the same site
If an author thinks what someone else has written, is cool, attractive, well forged, sculpted, crafted, he should do himself a favor and the rest of us, as well, and let it go with a salute to the author, instead of an injustice by copy-catting his work.
Those Who Only Comment or Who Write and Attack Their Readers Who Critique
There are a few other and more sinisterly, misanthropic, uncollegial, things I have personally observed and of which, a few times, have been the target:
1)-The stalker, hate-mail writer, who is viciously and relentlessly psychotic. They will read a complex article, of which I sense they do not even vaguely comprehend, looking for key words and regardless of the nature of the thrust of the article, focus on a minute portion thereof for a vituperative attack, or dirty tricks. They will follow a writer or similar stories by several writers and either not read the story but simply attack the keyword and in one case against a colleague here on OpEdNews, they attacked the author who actually was supporting the viewpoint of his attacker- (keyword illiteracy) strong evidence that the attacker either really didn't bother reading the article, or if having read it did not comprehend it.
2)-In another case, in which I critiqued a rather unfair and I thought mean spirited attack on a celebrity, I was blindsided by one of the most, over-the-top, slanderous, unethical, and even more mean spirited, Swift-Boat manure, slobbering (though rather brief), attacks, I have yet seen on this site, and by a colleague, no less. (Well not in spirit, at least) The person doing the attacking was the author, and indeed seemed to have no clue about the rules of engagement in discussion, debate, collegiality or civility, and who leaped to slander at little provocation.