Editorial: The importance of getting the whole story

The most recent edition of The Villanova Times, published Dec. 12, 2002, accuses The Villanovan of plagiarizing an article from Entertainment Weekly concerning potential actors who could play James Bond after Pierce Brosnan walks away from the role. The issue was of such great importance to the editors that they launched a front page article devoted to the supposed plagiarism and the writer of the article.

Obviously, plagiarism is a serious issue, especially in an academic environment such as a university where the availability of the Internet makes stealing easier to do and harder to catch. Had The Villanovan indeed committed such a vile act it would be a problem.

But no plagiarism was committed.

The articles in Entertainment Weekly and The Villanovan are very similar, but only because there are only a few criteria upon which one can evaluate James Bond.

Likewise, there are only a few actors who could realistically be considered to play the role. Therefore, any publication discussing a future Bond would likely be similar to those of the two in question.

What The Villanovan is guilty of is bad journalism. Though the article was developed and written before the issue of Entertainment Weekly was published, after reading it the style of the article was adjusted. Because of this, the article should have mentioned that the magazine contributed to the report, as any professional publication would have done. Due to an editorial oversight, however, this did not happen — far from the deliberate coverup inferred by The Villanova Times. Though this was indeed a grave mistake, neither the writer nor the newspaper committed plagiarism.

Having discussed one sin in the journalism world, it seems fitting that we should examine another: libel.

The Times article defames the writer of the Bond story by implying information that was conveniently not sought out by the staff of the Times. The lone attempt to obtain information from The Villanovan came from an interview which the Times staff did not give the other newspaper adequate time to prepare. Had the Times actually researched the article and the issue, this ludicrous excuse for a news story would have been revealed as the falsehood it was, and the staff could have spared themselves the embarrassment of losing what little credibility it has.

Both sides are clearly in the wrong here. However, hopefully the newspapers and the student body they represent can all learn important lessons here — the importance of originality and proper source recognition, and the significance of the printed word and the damning impact it can have when it is not researched.