Key Takeaways:

  • The internet makes it simpler to uncover “unattributed work” with online resources readily available for comparison.
  • Borrowing words or ideas without attribution destroys a journalist’s believability and tarnishes the news organisation’s image.
  • Deadlines and fierce competition can tempt journalists to cut corners, but literary theft is never the answer.

In the world of journalism, integrity is paramount.

Journalists are entrusted with the responsibility of reporting the truth, capturing events accurately, and providing unbiased insights to the public. Yet, instances of plagiarism, such as the infamous case of Jonah Lehrer, a former reporter for The New Yorker, are not uncommon. Such actions not only tarnish the reputation of the individual but also undermine public trust in the media.

This blog post will explore the phenomenon of journalists who plagiarized.

What Qualifies as Plagiarism in Journalism?

Plagiarism in journalism is the act of using someone else’s words, ideas, or work without proper attribution or acknowledgment. Here are some common forms of plagiarism in journalism:

  • Verbatim Plagiarism: This occurs when a journalist directly copies another person’s work without quotation marks or proper citation.
  • Paraphrasing Plagiarism: When a journalist rephrases someone else’s work too closely, without proper attribution, it can be considered paraphrasing plagiarism.
  • Ideas Plagiarism: Even if the journalist rewords the content, if the underlying idea or concept is taken from someone else’s work without giving credit, it’s still considered plagiarism.
  • Self-Plagiarism: This happens when a journalist presents their previously published work as new without proper citation.

Journalists Who Plagiarized?

plagiarism in journalism

Plagiarism is a serious offense in the world of journalism, as it goes against the core principles of honesty, integrity, and accuracy.

Unfortunately, there have been numerous instances where journalists have been caught plagiarizing content from other sources. Some of them are detailed below:

Jayson Blair

In 2003, Jayson Blair, a promising reporter at the New York Times, became infamous for plagiarism in journalism. The controversy began when an editor at the San Antonio Express-News noticed similarities between Blair’s work and that of Macarena Hernandez, a fellow reporter.

An investigation ensued, revealing Blair’s unethical practices, including plagiarism, fabrication, and other misconduct in at least 36 of his 73 articles.

Blair quit the New York Times because of this, and his name became linked to plagiarism.

He later transitioned to a career as a life coach, occasionally offering advice during the Jonah Lehrer plagiarism case.

Jonah Lehrer

Jonah Lehrer, a science and technology reporter for The New Yorker and author of three books, faced allegations of self-plagiarism, falsifying quotes, and traditional plagiarism.

As a result, he resigned from his position at The New Yorker and is currently under investigation by his publisher. Despite this, Wired has announced their intention to retain him.

Freed Zakaria

Freed Zakaria, a correspondent for CNN and editor at Time magazine, was accused of copying part of one of his articles from an earlier piece he wrote for The New Yorker. He apologised right away. But he was suspended by both organisations while an investigation took place.

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A week later, after the investigation found no new problems, he was reinstated.

Nada Behziz

Nada Behziz was a reporter for The Bakersfield Californian in 2005. She mostly wrote about health issues.

However, she was terminated from her position in October of that year when her editors discovered that an article she had written about teenage smoking contained a quotation plagiarised from a 1995 story in the San Francisco Examiner.

Subsequent investigation uncovered evidence of plagiarism in 29 other articles she had written, which represented more than one third of her body of work.

Apart from plagiarism, the review also found at least one potential case of fabrication. Further investigations by other newspapers revealed additional instances of plagiarism in her work.

Following her dismissal, Behziz initially showed no remorse. When questioned about the ongoing investigations into her work, she labeled it a “witch hunt” and suggested that the news organisations looking into her should focus on “true wrongdoers”.

Since then, Behziz has disappeared from public view. Apparently she has not been involved in journalism since 2005, at least not using that name, and there have been no references of her in the media since then either.

While someone with that name seems to be living in California, confirming this information has proven to be difficult.

Lloyd Brown

Lloyd Brown was the editor of the Florida Times-Union’s editorial page in the year 2004. However, allegations arose that Brown had incorporated plagiarised material into some of his editorials. Consequently, the paper formed a task force to investigate.

Following the investigation, Brown resigned from his position when it was revealed that he had plagiarised on three occasions and had shown “many other instances of lack of complete attribution” dating back to 1996.

Soon after his resignation, then-Florida Governor Jeb Bush hired Brown as a staff writer, but Brown resigned from this new position less than a month later, stating that he did not wish to become a distraction for the governor.

Since then, Brown has continued to write for various publications, primarily smaller publications and politically-oriented newsletters, with his most recent work dating to 2010.

Maureen Dowd

In 2009, Maureen Dowd, a columnist for The New York Times, was accused of plagiarising a post from the Talking Points Memo website.

Although the amount of copied content was minimal, the incident gained national attention due to Dowd’s political stance and her prior aggressive reporting on then-Presidential candidate Joe Biden’s plagiarism, which had effectively ended his run two decades earlier.

Dowd’s claim that she had heard the line from a friend and had it in that way, without providing an explanation for how it ended up being nearly identical to the original, failed to satisfy those who believed she should face disciplinary action.

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Despite the controversy, Dowd’s career did not suffer significant consequences. She continues to write for The New York Times, and although her column was corrected and she was publicly scolded by her editor, no further action was taken against her by her employer.

NBC News Reporter Fired for Plagiarism: Teaganne Finn’s Case

In 2022, NBC News revealed that they had identified 11 articles authored by one of their reporters that failed to meet their standards for original content. The reporter in question was Teaganne Finn, who had been hired in 2021 to cover politics.

These articles, published over a certain period, contained passages from other news organizations used without proper attribution. Although these passages were not central to the stories, they provided supplementary or background material.

The discovery of plagiarism occurred during a routine internal editing process at NBC News, prompting a comprehensive review of other stories written by Finn. Subsequently, Finn’s employment with NBC News was terminated.

The plagiarized passages have been removed from the articles, and an editor’s note has been appended to each of them. NBC News stressed the importance of maintaining the trust of their readers and viewers, asserting that their work must always adhere to the highest standards of journalistic integrity.


How to Avoid Plagiarism in Journalism?

Here are some ways to prevent plagiarism:

Do Your Own Reporting

The best way to avoid plagiarism in journalism is to do your own reporting. Rely on your own interviews, research, and observations to gather information.

When you gather information firsthand, you reduce the chances of accidentally plagiarising someone else’s work. By conducting your own interviews and research, you ensure that your work is original and adds value to the story.

Don’t Use Copy + Paste

Avoid copying and pasting text directly from other sources into your own work, even if you plan to paraphrase it later. This is a common mistake that can easily lead to unintentional plagiarism.

Instead, take notes while you’re researching and use those notes to write your own content in your own words.


When you do need to reference another original source in your writing, make sure to paraphrase the information in your own words.

Paraphrasing means expressing someone else’s ideas using your own words and sentence structure. However, be careful not to just rearrange the words or change a few words here and there. Instead, read the original text, put it away, and then write the information in your own words.

Plagiarism Checker Online

You should use a plagiarism checker programme to ensure that your work is free of any instances of plagiarism before you publish it. This will help you be sure you haven’t copied someone else’s work by chance. You may verify your work for plagiarism with a variety of online tools.

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These programmes look at your writing against a huge collection of already released works to find any plagiarised parts. To make sure your work is unique, you can check any parts that the tool indicates may be plagiarised and make any changes that are needed.

What’s Next?

Plagiarism among journalists, from fabricated stories to copying entire articles, throws the integrity of an entire profession into question. Executive editor and managing editors must prioritise originality in their news outlets’ coverage.

While AI-generated articles can be a helpful tool, they should never replace the vital role of investigative journalism and original material.

To ensure your work is beyond reproach, employ a Bytescare plagiarism checker. Book a demo today and see how our advanced technology can safeguard your reputation and maintain the public’s trust in your reporting.


What are the examples of plagiarism in journalism?

Common examples of plagiarism among journalists include copying verbatim text from another source without attribution, paraphrasing someone else’s work without citation, and presenting someone else’s ideas as one’s own.

Why do journalists plagiarise?

Journalists may plagiarise for various reasons, including tight deadlines, pressure to produce content quickly, lack of understanding of proper citation practices, or simply to pass off someone else’s work as their own.

What are the consequences of plagiarism for journalists?

Plagiarism can lead to severe consequences, including loss of credibility, disciplinary action (reprimands or termination), legal issues like copyright lawsuits, and erosion of public trust in media.

What are Some Notable Cases of Plagiarism in Journalism?

Notable cases include Jonah Lehrer, a former reporter for The New Yorker, Fareed Zakaria, a CNN correspondent and editor at Time magazine, and Jayson Blair, a former reporter for the New York Times.

How does plagiarism affect the credibility of news outlets?

Plagiarism can severely damage the credibility of news outlets. It can lead to loss of trust among readers and viewers, and can harm the outlet’s reputation.

What is self-plagiarism and is it considered unethical in journalism?

Self-plagiarism involves reusing one’s own previously published work without attribution. It is considered unethical in journalism as it misleads the audience about the freshness and originality of the content.