Columbia Spectator fires staffer for plagiarism

The IvyGate blog reported Thursday that Columbia Spectator associate arts and entertainment editor Jade Bonacolta plagiarized three paragraphs from the New York Times. Sarah Darville, editor-in-chief of the Columbia University paper, tells her staff this afternoon: “We have absolutely no tolerance for plagiarism, and Jade’s relationship with Spectator has been terminated.”

From: Sarah Darville
Date: Fri, Sep 7, 2012 at 5:02 PM
Subject: An important note
To: Columbia Spectator staff

Hi everyone,

I’m sure many of you noticed the editor’s note published online yesterday in response to an article in Thursday’s A&E section titled “Frank Lloyd Wright archives arrive at Columbia.” I want to take this space to explain what happened and where things stand now.

Yesterday around 6 p.m., I got a call from an editor at the blog Ivygate, telling me that they had just posted something about one of our articles being plagiarized. It was obvious that a few pieces of Jade Bonacolta’s piece closely mirrored a New York Times piece published two days earlier, and we immediately replaced the article with an editor’s note.

A closer look led to the article’s retraction within the next hour. Using the writer’s interview notes, the press materials released by the University, the articles themselves and conversations with the writer, we have concluded that she both lifted text from the Times piece and created a false quote using material from the Times piece. We did not find any evidence of anything similar in her past work for Spectator.

We have absolutely no tolerance for plagiarism, and Jade’s relationship with Spectator has been terminated.

We were, as you may be, shocked by such a clear breach of ethics, as our editorial standards for accuracy and originality are the first things new writers learn (second only, perhaps, to their own poor lung capacity after climbing three sets of stairs). But though this situation has been disappointing, it has been dealt with quickly in order not to distract from what you all do so well—produce high-quality journalism every day that serves the campus and our neighborhood.

Please contact me or Maggie if you have any questions.