PLAGIARISM POLICY- 2020
We define "plagiarism" as taking someone else’s work and intentionally presenting it as if it is your own. This is theft. At MyIndMakers, it is unacceptable.
1. If we detect, before publication, that material in an article has been taken from published material, we send the article back to the writer, pointing this out. But following that, we follow different procedures depending on whether the writer is a staffer/ contracted writer/ columnist, or whether he/she is a one-off/ once-in-a-while contributor with whom we have more than an arm’s length relationship.
(1A) The writer is a staffer/ contracted writer/ columnist: We do a plagiarism check on a random but statistically significant sample of his/ her articles. If the result is negative (that is, clean), we tell him/ her that we detected this in this article of yours, this is not acceptable, and ask for an explanation. If the explanation is not satisfactory enough to MyIndMakers Editorial Advisory Board (EAB), a stern warning is issued. If the result is positive (that is, we find a history of such acts), we point this out and ask for a defence argument. Then MyIndMakers Board deliberates and decides what action need to be taken, based on EAB’s advise. This can range from re-writing the piece with attributions, docking one month’s salary to a quick goodbye. Decisions of MyIndMakers Board are final in this matter.
(1B) The writer is a one-off/ once-in-a-while contributor: We blacklist that person after informing him/ her. We don’t waste our time checking past pieces. We don’t assume guilt. Therefore, depending on the extent of the plagiarism (eg: couple of quotes/sentences versus an entire paragraph/article), MyIndMakers Board will take action that will certainly include being blacklisted, based on EAB’s recommendations. If it is a matter of a couple of quotes, a re-write could be asked for. Decisions of MyIndMakers Board are final.
2. If the article is published by MyIndMakers, and then if plagiarism is suspected or alleged either by the MyIndMakers team or by an external person:
(2A) First, we take a call on whether the accusation is worth spending time over. For instance, an accusation that “Aurangzeb passed away in 1707” is an unattributed lift from Wikipedia is something we don’t need to bother about. In such cases, we issue a statement saying that we have investigated the matter and it’s fine. If it is not frivolous, we immediately issue a public statement on social media and on our website that we are taking this very seriously, we are taking down the piece, and will investigate and let the public know. In 99% of the cases, we will be able to find out in five minutes if the accusation is worth investigating.
(2B) If the accusation carries some weight, and the writer is a staffer/ contracted writer/ columnist: We take down the article, issue the statement, and proceed with an inquiry, as in 1a. If he/ she is found guilty, as in 1A, MyIndMakers Board decides what action needs to be taken, based on EAB’s recommendations.
MyIndMakers shall keep key stakeholders posted in the action taken. We will issue a statement saying that we have done a thorough investigation and taken the necessary actions. If we find that the writer is not guilty (Please refer to What we must keep in mind below Point 2c), we issue a statement and reinstate the piece and life goes on as usual.
(2C) If the accusation carries some weight, and the writer is a one-off/ once-in-a-while contributor: We take down the article, issue the statement, and check. If he/ she is found guilty, blacklist that person, and let him/ her know it. We issue a statement saying that we have done a thorough investigation and taken the necessary actions. If we find that the writer is not guilty (Please refer to Point 3 below), we issue a statement and reinstate the piece and life goes on as usual.
What we must keep in mind
We must note that “plagiarism”, quite like “libel”, is a very nuanced issue. “Intentionally” is the key word, and “intent’ is difficult to establish (or, for the accused, difficult to disprove). As a growing organization, at this point of time, we know that decisions can be taken based on personal judgement. However, we recognize that as we grow bigger, we will need a set of guidelines for the writers we publish. The attribution/ plagiarism policy we have cited above needs to be read in the light of what comes next here: The Guidelines for MyIndMakers writers.
ATTRIBUTION GUIDELINES FOR MYINDMAKERS WRITERS
Firstly, Attribution for this document: While formulating these guidelines, we have relied to a great extent on the lecture material used by American journalism teacher Steve Buttry for a series of journalistic ethics seminars he conducted for the American Press Institute; and from the ethics guidelines of NPR (National Public Radio). Much of the language from these sources has been kept unchanged. However, whenever necessary, we have adapted, deleted, added material to suit the Indian scenario, and MyIndMakers ethos.
Attribution is the difference between research and plagiarism. Please note that attribution gives stories credibility and perspective. It tells readers how we know what we know. Effective use of attribution is a matter both of journalism ethics and of strong writing.