Christopher Szechenyi, Steve Weinberg and Russell Carollo wrote and edited a work for hire with the contractual terms specifying the report would be released in full or shelved and never released.

However, since Tommy Davis has violated that contract, the three must respond forcefully and rapidly to this grievous affront to their good names and reputations. Tommy Davis, it seems, has done material harm to their good names and reputations. Will they allow that?

The small statement they have made about about it and one interview concerning it are, I think, inadequate response to the injustice done to them by Davis and the Church of Scientology. They should consider: 1) returning the funds, or donating to them a worthy organization, 2) publishing the report in full and taking the legal consequences, 3) publishing a new report of some kind to set the record straight.

I wish them well. They have cast their lots with an organization known for its litigious nature, however, and they need to take affirmative action to clear their names and reputations, which have been so badly sullied by Mr. Davis and the Church of Scientology.

——-

Statement and interviews: http://www.wusf.usf.edu/news/2010/02/25/scientology_hires_reporters_to_investigate_st._petersburg_times

— Stephen

Countering Counterfeiting

With a couple episodes of plagiarism in the news lately, Craig Silverman devoted this week’s “Regret the Error” column to tips that can help reporters and editors avoid lifting others’ work—and detecting instances of plagiarism when they occur. Silverman asked for more suggestions from readers, and quickly got one.

I think this is great to give some guidance, especially for journalists just starting out, on practices that can prevent problems. Making them a habit will help keep them out of trouble unless they are dedicated to deception. In my career of more than two decades as a newspaper reporter, I came up with a range of techniques myself including:

+ Using some kind of typographical notation for common-knowledge passages that need checking and paraphrasing before submission

+ For information that in fairness to another journalist and in service to the reader needed attribution to another source, be sure to jot down all the needed info from the start. That makes citations easy to do, especially as deadline looms rather than another rushed last-minute, backtracking task.

One concern, however, came up when out of curiosity, I checked out the tips with the eHow link. The first one reads: “Determine if the information is common knowledge. If the information has been cited in five other sources, it’s safe to assume that it’s common knowledge and does not need citation.”

I would disagree, and I worry for newer journalists or those just now getting religion if they follow this. The five apparent distinct sources can actually just be one (say several publication, broadcast and online outlets under the same ownership repeating what a sister entity reported.) Plus, for the sake of news consumers, even including a line about “In widespread news reports” can help prod them to think about the difference between what’s been reported, what’s common knowledge and what’s been established as fact.

— Maya Blackmun

The Press and Climate, Redux

On Tuesday, Robin Lloyd and Cristine Russell filed a dispatch for The Observatory from San Diego, where climate researchers and environment reporters had gathered for the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Up for discussion was how to improve understanding of climate issues and communication between scientists and the press amid concerns about an erosion of public trust.

If you’ll read and re-read this article — and then again — you’ll note that there is hardly any critical self-examination of the media.

We read that scientists need to do a better job of communicating and of working with the media. We learn that scientists need to be more forthcoming and clear. We read that the public doesn’t get it. We DO read about some problems in the media — in some far-away country, as if our own media are doing a great job???!!!

I’m shocked at the LACK of self-examination here. Another gentle self-pat on the back to the media, with a few very gentle tips here and there.

— Jeff Huggins

The Editors