On one of my first rides after moving to Boulder, while stopped at some roadwork with other cyclists waiting for the flag-dude to wave us through, I struck up a conversation with a professional triathlete from Australia. She asked me what had brought me to Boulder, and I said I was freelance writing. Another cyclist had ridden up behind us, heard me say this, and volunteered that I may want to join Boulder Media Women. He gave me his card so I could get contact info for the group from him, and I joined.
It's a great group of women -- over 300! -- who all work in some form of media. Many are freelancer writers, and I've learned so much from being on the listserv, attending Friday coffee hours, Tuesday "Schmoozes" (happy hour!), and monthly potlucks.
Yesterday on the BMW listserv, someone posted a link to a Newsweek article about plagiarism. As a prof, I dealt with plagiarism quite a few times -- most often it involved students "lifting" passages right out of our textbook, but one student even lifted quotes directly out of a hand-out that I WROTE!!! -- and it was quite unnerving. I tried to be empathetic, realizing that many of our students hadn't ever written papers where they needed to use sources. Knowing this, I talked to them about plagiarism prior to their papers being due, and even gave them readings about how and when to cite properly. It still happened though, on a fairly regular basis. I'm sure that some of the students I caught remember me as "that evil professor-wench who filed a 'Plagiarism Report' on me," and sometimes I do look over my shoulder more often than normal when walking down dimly lit streets. But when I've explained to you exactly what plagiarism is, well, there's just no excuse for using someone else's exact words and failing to use quotation marks and a citation.
And as most of you probably realize, plagiarism doesn't just happen on school campuses -- it happens in real life, with much more serious consequences even when the context is hilarious. This Newsweek article was written by an author whose work was plagiarized. He wrote about meerkats...and a romance novelist used some of his work, word for word, without quoting or citing. Yes, information about meerkats in a crotch novel. Very, very bizarre and quite funny. I not only wonder about the plagiarizing author's competence, but about her editor's....how could you read this, and not be suspicious that she'd cut and pasted the information? Perhaps after 11 years of college teaching, I just have a heightened paranoia about cheating, but I'll let you be the judge...