“I apologize for … falsifying and plagiarizing my work,” another student wrote to a professor recently, blaming the transgression on “stress and a recent death in the family.”
“I attempted to take the easy way out,” the student wrote. “I know that my actions are wrong and for that I am deeply sorry … I will redo the assignment in the most ethical way … [and] never again attempt to falsify my work.” The student was given a second chance, which she used to resubmit the work with the very same plagiarized passages as the original.

Thankfully, there are shining stars who recognize the seriousness of their offenses and are all the better for them.

A top student in an advanced reporting class once quoted a press officer who apparently didn’t exist—at least not in that office. The mistake was a result, she said, of getting her notes “confused.” This time, however, something was different. The student was clearly mortified, and spent the rest of the semester working overtime to make it right.

“I think it was you who told us that journalists are less trusted than lawyers,” she told me recently. “That definitely made me want to make sure that every interview I [did] was on the books and notated properly.”

And how does she feel about what happened now, in hindsight?

“That’s the kind of stuff you gotta learn from,” she said.

Kristal Brent Zook is an associate professor and director of the M.A. Journalism Program at Hofstra University. She is the author of three books including I See Black People: The Rise and Fall of African American-Owned Television and Radio.