Student mag is stripped of award over plagiarism

Student magazine Skirt has been stripped of a journalism award after being found guilty of plagiarism.

The magazine won team of the year in Press Gazette’s Student Journalism Awards 2004, but has been asked to return the £500 prize money after an investigation revealed that the publication contained material lifted from the internet.

Skirt was also a runner-up in the PTC’s Magazine Academy awards.

Editor Amy Watkins said she only became aware of the problem when Tim Holmes, her tutor at Cardiff School of Journalism, was contacted by the PTC about an anonymous tip-off.

Holmes wrote to Press Gazette and the PTC to confirm that his investigation, with which the students fully cooperated, had found “one instance of outright plagiarism and two instances where the boundary between research and lifting may have been crossed”. It is understood that a 200-word piece from the magazine was almost identical to copy found on the internet.

“I compared the document to the article in Skirt and was astonished to find that a paragraph in both was nearly exactly the same, and so it seemed obvious that plagiarism had occurred,” Watkins told Press Gazette.

“Having talked to the main writer, it seems that they mistook internet research for their co-writer’s notes.”

Watkins added: “Obviously plagiarism is a very serious issue, both journalistically and academically, and when we were made aware of the issue we gave our full co-operation to find out what had happened. As we have been honest and acknowledged that plagiarism appears to have taken place, we would have liked to have known the identity of the person who accused us, as they obviously spent a lot of time searching the internet.

“However, we are all very proud of our magazine and we put a huge amount of time and effort into it.

When we won the award, we did so because the judges enjoyed our humour, style and fresh approach – we didn’t win because of the paragraph in question.

“Checking sources is vital, and this experience has reinforced that.

However, as editor, to check every phrase of every article would take hours and so you have to trust the writer to a certain extent to write original copy,” she said.

By Ruth Addicott

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