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Librarian Blog

Originality counts

Years and years ago when I was editor of a small newspaper in the Panhandle someone who was not a resident of my town ormy county contacted me and told me he had proof that the new superintendent of schools in his town had a bogus doctorate from a diploma mill. This fellow also had a copy of the superintendent's plagiarlized doctoral dissertation.
The newspaper in his county, which neighbored my own, wouldn't publish the story. Would I?
Of course.
Regardless of the squishy and moveable standars for such things today, I still believe plagiarism is a sin against scholarship and should be punished severely.
Cut-and-paste technologies and access to an infinite supply of materials has apparently made plagiarism easier than ever. That doesn't make it right.
The most recent spate of plagiarism reminded me of that long-ago school superintendent. In the present case, it appears that quite a number of public school principles are plagiarising letters of acceptance or something of the sort. And they are losing their jobs. Rightfully so.
ABC FOX News in Montana did a little sniffing around and discovered the evidence of widespread cheating on these letters.
Still, this is truly only the small tip of a huge iceberg. I subscribe to a daily blog called "Retraction Watch," and every single day it includes notes about the misuse of images, the appropriation of facts, just out-and-out bad behavior by people who know better but don't care.
This is far beyond mere fake news. This is fakery everywhere.

To become famous!

Monalisa Perez, age 19, and her boyfriend Pedro Ruiz III, 22, remind me of the kids back when "Superman" came out on TV who quickly came to believe they, too, could fly and so they put a bath towel around their necks and jumped from their housetops. They dropped like buckets of rocks falling into a well.
Perez and Ruiz somehow convinced themselves that being on the internet was so important that they were invincible.
So, as a trick, they took a pistol and a book and Ruiz held the book up in front of his chest and Perez shot him.
The bullet went into his chest and killed him.
This might have worked if the pistol had been a .22.
Instead, it was a .50-caliber.
A tragic story about magical thinking that not even an author of fantasy could dream up.
(Information for this is from The New York Times of today.)

Reading to a child

One of the great pleasures of parenthood is reading to a small child, all cuddled up and cozy, perhaps in a rocking chair.
This must be a lost art, though.
Why do I think so?
Because none other than The New York Times magazine has published an article on how to do this.
Malia Wollan produced the tip in a recent Sunday edition. The piece was called, "How to Read Aloud to Children."
The tips are good ones. If you'd like a copy, I'll make one for you. Just drop by.
While you're here we can give you some ideas on books that are good to read to children.

Slip slidin'

The slippery slope's leading edge was music.
That's how it all began. First, music went online and you could buy it for next to nothing or not pay for it at all.
Next was books. Now, you can buy them, but mainly through one retailer who can charge what it wants.
Then came (or went) newspapers. And then magazines.
And now it's shopping malls.
The internet eats everything in its path. And it takes no prisoners.
Today alone, The New York Times has three stories about the online world's impact on jobs, retail sales, malls -- commerce in general.
We appear to be approaching a tipping point.
Amazon seems to realize this. It just bought Whole Foods.
Whole Foods is a subset of Whole World.

You're kidding, right?

I think maybe this is a joke.
Someone named Victoria L. Rubin has written a paper just published in Canada with a very serious-sounding title: "News Verification Suite: Towards System Design to Supplement Reporters' and Editors' Judgements."
Rubin, who is affiliated with Western University in Canada, may have been a journalist at one time; it's hard to tell. She does know something about the inner operations of newsrooms, how stories are put together, edited, etc., and she seems to know something about the mindset of the reporters and editors who write for the world's mainstsream dailies and their counterparts in other media.
The process at its most basic is this: a reporter gets information and writes a story after vetting his sources; an editor looks over the work, checking spelling, grammar, facts,  and so on; another editor may do another review; and then it's off to be published.
Now, into that system -- and here's where thinks get a little fuzzy -- Rubin would introduce a News Verification Suite that would include, I think, some kind of algorithm that could detect lies and distortions and errors in inconsequential facts and, even, satire.
I am actually trying to picture this in my head, this B.S. Detector.
And, frankly, I have a hard time with it. I was a journalist for 45 years, and I came to believe that the most important element in gathering and publishing news was to have people who were honest and of the utmost integrity doing the job. These people are pretty good at B.S. Detection without an algorithm.
Which may, itself, fall into the category of B.S. that needs detecting.
Or maybe it's satire?
Where is that algorithm when you need it?
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