Upfront is happy to report that the editors at the Davis Enterprise are not plagiarists. Still, they could do a better job of explaining the source of many Enterprise editorials to their readers.
Richard Haggstrom wrote us last week to “report a possible breach of journalistic ethics” when he noticed two recent Enterprise editorials about Hugo Chavez that had appeared, word for word, in other papers, including the Rocky Mountain News (Denver) and the Boston Herald. In the Enterprise print editions, they appeared under the banner “Our View,” and on the paper’s Web site they ran under the unlikely byline “Enterprise Staff.” Haggstrom feared there was some sort of plagiarism going on.
Upfront had another hunch, and called Enterprise Editor Debbie Davis to check it out. She confirmed our guess—that the editorials were purchased from a wire service, in this case the Scripps Howard News Service, based in Washington, D.C.
As part of the agreement between Scripps and the Enterprise, the Davis paper is allowed to print editorials under the banner “Our View,” and present them to readers in the same way it presents locally written editorials.
These canned editorials are pretty common, especially for smaller papers that don’t have the time or resources for a full editorial staff. But the presentation is a bit misleading. “You expect them to tell readers where these opinions come from. A lot of us assume they are locally written,” Haggstrom explained.
Davis did agree that the practice of putting an “Enterprise Staff” byline on the Web version of these outsourced editorials was a mistake, saying, “I certainly understand the confusion.”