Plagiarism he probably didn’t see

wingard

Matt Wingard

Start this with a quote from Oregon state Representative Matt Wingard, R-Wilsonville, appearing in the Hillsboro Argus: “It’s amazing to me that somebody blogging in their underwear from a basement of their mom’s house can make a vicious personal smear on their Web site.”

So many are the problems with that quote, that even it’s hard to know where to start. Does the fact of easy communication in today’s technology really amaze the representative? Does he really hold with that old wheeze stereotyping bloggers? If the answers are yes, then part of what happened in the Wingard global warming plagiarism dispute starts to fall into focus – and not to the representative’s advantage.

The blogger Wingard was specifically upset with was Kari Chisholm, one of the founders of Blue Oregon and a website designer for a bunch of Democratic officeholders and candidates – the runner of a substantial business, and a far distance from Wingard’s stereotype. (Would he apply the stereotype as well, say, to Jeff Mapes of the Oregonian? Or, say, to attorney Jack Bogdanski?)

He was upset with Chisholm because the blogger had been paying attention to a House floor speech (actually a “remonstrance,” a point of order that allows members to speak on whatever subject they want) he had given, on global warming (he is an arguer against), and thought some of the words had a certain ring. Chisholm ran a check, and it turned out that they did: Most of it was taken, word for word, from the Washington Times. A few other slices came from other sources, but no more than a few words at most from Wingard himself.

Reading from someone else’s article or publication is okay, and nothing unusual. But in this case, Wingard didn’t bother to attribute any of it: To listen to his floor speech, he seemed to have created it all himself. After Chisholm called him on it, Wingard acknowledged the source in a press release and elsewhere. But not until he was called on it.

Chisholm also pointed out this: “This incident is especially damning for Wingard because he’s a trained journalist. He’s got a degree in broadcast journalism – and once worked as a journalist in Yakima, Washington.” Among journalists, plagiarism has happened, but when exposed it’s usually followed with a quick boot out of the profession.

Wingard hasn’t yet come up with a decent explanation. He said that he meant to attribute – but he didn’t until after he was publicly challenge on it. He said he didn’t have time for an attribution – but the speech lasted several minutes, and attribution would have taken seconds.

The only explanation that seems to make sense is that Wingard just didn’t know any better or wasn’t thinking. Just as, apparently, about bloggers.

Share on Facebook