I just read an interesting article on Knight Science Journalism Tracker about science writer Jonah Lehrer. Apparently, Lehrer is accused of plagiarizing himself and other writers as well. I’m going to let the second bit of this go — we all know what it means to plagiarize someone else.
Apparently when Lehrer moved his blog from Wired to The New Yorker, he didn’t set out on this new journey with all new content. Large parts of his initial posts were from previous posts on Wired.
That in and of itself isn’t newsworthy. Writers are often told to reslant and resell as a way to maximize research and income. Writers also post and repost blog entries across multiple blogs.
The key is to do it transparently. “This blog post originally appeared on WOW’s Muffin blog.” “Portions of this article originally appeared in Newsweek.”
It may not be necessary to include these things in the article or on the blog post, but they are the sorts of things that you need to tell your editor. Your editor can then decide if the material is too similar to post without a disclaimer.
Another way to avoid this is to use the same information but to rewrite it. When a blog post does especially well here, I will write up the content for another outlet. Most of my blog posts are short. This means that I need to add to the content. This is especially necessary if everyone commented on only a small part of the original blog and I am turning that into another unique piece of writing.
I also rewrite the hook. Sure, the first hook may have been good. After all, I try not to write awful hooks. But the readers for my blog are generally children’s writers. At least that’s what I assume. If I write the article for a general audience, I will add examples from the adult market place.
What do you do when you reuse research or content so that you don’t end up plagiarizing yourself?