….and that nightmare is Duane Lester, a hard-working, honest, courageous, organized and determined blogger who wasn’t going to let a newspaper rip him off and get away with it. Lester researched and posted an original local news story, a true scoop, and days letter was shocked to find that a local paper, the Oregon Times Observer, had lifted his entire post and put it on the paper’s front page, without credit, permission, or attribution. Shocked and unprepared for such flagrant and shameless appropriation of his labors, he researched the issue, wrote a letter, and then visited the paper to demand payment. Brilliantly, he also brought along a friend with a video camera.
The whole story, as well as the enlightening and satisfying confrontation between the Blogger and the Word Thief, is on the resulting video. There is a lot to see here.
We see, for example, the perfect and ethical way to handle a confrontation. Lester is never rude; he never raises his voice or engages in name calling. He knows he is in the right, and he persists in insisting on what is owed to him despite the aggravating conduct of the guilty editor, Ripley. In Ripley we see an unethical individual caught in misconduct by the person he wronged, yet without the character, decency or common sense to admit his wrongful act, apologize for it, or demonstrate any remorse or shame whatsoever. We see Ripley attempt to intimidate Lester; we also see him grasp desperately at rationalizations to excuse his inexcusable conduct, most of which don’t even make any sense. In a final display of defiant jerkism, we see him write out the check for $500 demanded by Lester, and learn that in the subject line at the bottom, he wrote “Bullshit.” Yes, having to ask permission before you steal a writer’s work is bullshit; crediting the writer of a story your paper puts on the front page to attract purchasers is bullshit; paying for what you took is bullshit.
And I thought the new generation of journalists were unethical. Naturally, Lester’s reaction upon being called on his own plagiarism—anger, meanness, and shamelessness—reminded me of my own clash with a plagiarist, California lawyer Mary Fances Prevost, who stole one of my blog posts. Like Ripley, her immediate reaction was anger, insults, and attempted intimidation; she also resorted to one of the rationalizations Lester’s familiar, a sycophantic woman by his side whose inane running commentary is one of the joys of the video, trots out, the “this-is-such-a-trivial-thing-why-don’t-you-get-a -life?” deflection, though in Lester’s case it’s the “why-are-you-picking-on-a-poor-little-small-town-newspaper?” version. This is how unethical people behave, as opposed to good people who have strayed into unethical conduct. They aren’t sorry, they are angry. They don’t want to fix the problem; they want to attack the person who caught them. Prevost and Ripley are two of a kind.
It is Lester, however, who shines. His video could be used in classes on how to maintain your composure, dignity and moral superiority in the face of callous wrongdoing. As great an Ethics Dunce as Ripley is, he is a greater Ethics Hero.
Pointer: Patrick at Popehat
Facts: American Blogger
Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at firstname.lastname@example.org.