To the Editor,
I write about TV, radio and movies for The Gazette, and I'm used to dishing out criticism as well as taking it. But when somebody accuses me of something as serious as plagiarism, I feel I have to respond, if for no other reason than readers may interpret silence as acceptance.
In her July 13 Public Eye column, Cara DeGette suggested that I stole a story from Salon.com. "The Internet is a treasure trove of ideas for enterprising journalists -- but that doesn't mean it's OK to lift a story and recast it in print without accrediting the original source."
An online blurb promoting the column included a blurb that took the accusation further, alleging I lifted a story from Salon "practically verbatim."
The day I need to lift a story from Salon or any other news organization will be my last as a journalist. I didn't lift anything from anybody. These allegations are libelous and absolutely not true.
Here's how this mess started:
I wrote a story for The Gazette on July 2 about how Focus on the Family convinced Procter & Gamble to pull ads from racy TV shows. The next day my editors and I received nasty e-mails from Kerry Lauerman, Washington correspondent at Salon.com, saying that he had broken this story a few weeks earlier and deserved credit for it.
My editors felt that while Salon apparently broke the story, because I did all my own reporting, conducted my own interviews, verified all the facts and wrote a different story, credit was not necessary.
Still, it doesn't hurt me to give credit to the guy. So in my next column, I wrote a blurb explaining that my Focus story was a follow-up to a piece that originally ran in Salon. Lauerman said he was fine with that and apologized for snapping at me.
A few days later, DeGette (whom Lauerman told me is a friend of his) wrote a vicious column using Lauerman's initial e-mails to me and suggested that I lifted a story from Salon without giving proper credit.
Even Lauerman was surprised and upset.
"I wrote Cara and told her that I was dismayed that she quoted from my e-mails to her," he wrote in an e-mail to me. "I didn't intend for that to happen. I wasn't trying to rig a hit piece against you."
But a hit piece is obviously what it was.
I complained to DeGette that not only did she falsely suggest I was guilty of plagiarism, she did so without bothering to call me for a comment. She told me she thought The Gazette had a policy that restricted its reporters from talking to the Independent.
I've never heard of such a policy.
In fact, DeGette knew I would have talked to her because the last time she attacked me in her column (for a story that was actually written by another Gazette writer!), I told her to call me before the next slander. She might get her facts straight. I guess she figured, why bother?
Independent editor Kathryn Eastburn was a bit more receptive. Having read both my story and the Salon piece, Eastburn came to the same conclusion our editors did: There was no basis for accusations of plagiarism. She apologized for that accusation, which was stated directly in a blurb on the Independent's Web site.
Because DeGette's printed column only implied plagiarism without saying it outright, apparently she felt no need to apologize.
Without the accusation of plagiarism, what's left here? One journalist used another journalist's piece as a launch-off point to do his own story. It happens every day in just about every publication on the planet. In fact, the very column in the Independent that attacked me included an obituary on media advocate Paul Klite with information apparently culled from a recent Denver Post piece.
The issue about giving credit to the source that broke the story is a red herring. As a matter of course, our newspaper and the vast majority of others in our country don't give credit to the sources that break stories. In many cases, we don't even know who broke a story. When I saw the story in Salon about Focus on the Family, I had no way of knowing if this was, indeed, the first report of this story or whether Salon got the tip from AP or the Washington Post. I gave credit after the fact only because I trusted that Lauerman was telling the truth when he told me he broke the story.
I've since discovered through online searches that many aspects of Salon's report (specifically involving Procter & Gamble pulling ads from "Dr. Laura") actually were reported first by AP. (No credit was given, by the way, nor should it have been if Lauerman independently verified the information.)
What makes this all so hypocritical is that your newspaper regularly follows up on stories broken by ours and other publications without giving credit to the original sources. The crediting issue is a smoke screen.
I believe DeGette is just grasping at anything she could to launch another pathetic attack against the competition. Anybody who wonders why many readers don't like or trust journalists need look no further than the "Public Eye" column -- the land that truth forgot.
-- Warren Epstein
Gazette TV/radio and movie writer
The Independent's response to Mr. Epstein's complaints about the column in question appeared in the July 20 Backtracks. -- Ed.
Got the munchies?
To the Editor:
I can't but wonder how many of those chocolate chip ganja cookies Owen Perkins sampled at the recent Further Fest ("Dead Ahead," Sept. 7). I attended the show at Fiddlers Green and I must say he did a great job of summing up the show.
However, in his attempt to list some of the people, places and things that keep us Dead Heads alive and kickin' he forgot to mention our own little local Dead gem, Shakedown Street. They have been with us for goin' on 14 years now.
That's OK though. Owen, they say short-term memory is the first thing to go!!! Peace!
-- The Happy Hippy
Over the Internet
Police activities suspect
To the Editor:
I commend you on your article exposing illegal police searches ("Bad Boys," by Cara DeGette, Aug. 31).
I recently saw something disturbing as I drove on I-70 on Saturday, Aug. 19 around 11 a.m.: There was a police narcotics checkpoint set up on an exit ramp about 10 miles west of Limon. There were two police officers standing on the side of the highway waving people over to the exit ramp to be checked by other officers up on the ramp -- however, they did not have all lanes blocked off so that all cars were forced to exit. (I was in the wrong lane to be waved over.) I was driving in the left lane passing another car and didn't realize what I was seeing until I drove past. I was absolutely livid.
The last time I checked the United States Constitution (and discussed this with a lawyer friend) the police were breaking the law since they did not stop every car. It was a random act of search and seizure without any probable cause. I am interested to know how many "busts" the state police made that day, because legally, anyone they arrested must be released and have all charges dropped because the search was random and totally illegal. If the police want to check for narcotics, auto insurance or DUI, then under the law, they may do so, but only if they stop and search everyone.
I discussed this issue with several educated persons who made comments like "I don't have anything to hide" and "I would have let them search my car." It blew my mind, because that simply is not the point! What is to stop the police from deciding "that one over there looks like ... and that one over there ..."?
-- Cindy J. Hendrickson
Over the Internet
Responsible growth, not end of prosperity
To the Editor:
I am thrilled that Amendment 24, the Responsible Growth Initiative, will be on November's ballot. I believe that when voters understand the measure, how it's crafted to avoid the pitfalls of growth control initiatives elsewhere, a person can't help but vote yes -- the gains far outweigh the risks.
I work among architects and engineers. The ones I've spoken with think Amendment 24 is a positive step in the right direction. Builders and developers need to know where growth is going to occur in order to profit.
I'm appalled to see flyers in lumberyards and hear rumors in the building trades that the Responsible Growth Initiative will destroy their livelihood. Mostly I'm upset because opponents of this measure who spread false fears underestimate people's intelligence -- how dumb do they think we are?
In Colorado Springs, folks are waiting in line for building projects to commence.
The city is worried about the rising cost of labor for city projects and said in a recent Council meeting that we need to encourage vocational training in the Springs. Workers are coming here from elsewhere. In other words, demand is greater than supply.
We will continue to build and attract new citizens as long as our city retains its quality of life. Amendment 24 does not limit or stop growth, it only means citizens at the local level decide where growth will happen.
Find out what Amendment 24 is all about before you vote: http://www.coloradansforresponsiblegrowth.org.
You might be pleasantly surprised.
-- Max Eisele