In addition to the usual activities of sifting through inflammatory letters to the editor and meeting with local politicians seeking the paper’s endorsement, he had to contend with a minor controversy over whether U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman plagiarized material used in an OpEd.
Now that the election has passed, Hubbard agreed to answer some questions about the plagiarism accusations, as well as a few other issues relevant to the public relations industry.
Q: As a result of the issue with Rep. Coffman’s opinion column, you have implemented new policies to ensure that material The Denver Post publishes is “original work.” What are those new policies, and how do they differ from previous policies?
A: As I told (The Denver Post reporter) Kurtis Lee for his story, we’ve always operated with the understanding that the work people submit is their own. There was a similar issue with Rep. Scott McInnis and op-eds he penned for The Denver Post under previous editors, so I decided that we would spell it to eliminate any confusion. We have posted the policy online and are in the process of creating a form in which contributors acknowledge that, to the best of their knowledge, the work they are submitting is their own (if that sounds a lot like the Honor Code at Colorado College, it’s probably because two brothers and my best friend went there).
Q: Lee reported that, “Ethics experts contacted by The Post said the duplicative writings fall short of their definition of plagiarism. But they said Coffman’s use of material by other writers failed to reach accepted standards for attribution.” What conclusion did you reach as the editorial page editor?
A: The “cut” and “paste” functions on computers and political “messaging” operations can be dangerous.
Q: What, if any, conversations did you have with Rep. Coffman or his office once it was determined that the material had appeared other places under the bylines of other individuals?
A: I haven’t had any conversations with him. I expect we will the next time he offers a piece. We’ve always had a a cordial professional relationship, and I don’t expect this episode to change that fact.
Q: It is a common practice in public relations to ghostwrite material for clients. What is your opinion about that practice? Continue reading