New Orleans alt-weekly fires ‘know-it-all’ columnist for plagiarism

A Gambit reader let the New Orleans alternative weekly know that passages in the Q-and-A column Blake Pontchartrain were lifted from other publications.

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“After analyzing those examples and doing our own preliminary research, we’ve determined that the problem is not an isolated one,” writes editor Kevin Allman.

He continues:

“Blake Pontchartrain” is a composite column that has been written by several contributors over the years. These examples can all be attributed to a single writer, who will no longer be working for Gambit.

While we look at more of this writer’s columns and try to determine the depth of the problem, we’ve decided the safest course of action is to remove the Blake Pontchartrain archive from our website.

A note to readers regarding Blake Pontchartrain (bestofneworleans.com)

Examples of Blake Pontchartrain passages are after the jump:

The Times Picayune’s James Philip Karst shares these examples with Romenesko readers:

State site on Fort Pike.

Blake: “During the Seminole Wars in the 1830s, Fort Pike was a staging area for U.S. troops en route to Florida and was a collection point for hundreds of Seminole prisoners and their black slaves, who were being transported to Oklahoma.”

State: “During the Seminole Wars in the 1830s, Fort Pike served as a staging area for many troops en route to Florida, and also as a collection point for hundreds of Seminole prisoners and their black slaves who were being transported to Oklahoma.”

Blake: “Cannons were removed from some of the casemates to convert them to prison cells. At one point in the conflict, there were only 66 soldiers to guard 253 prisoners.”

State: “Cannons were removed from some of the casemates to convert them to cells. At one point in this conflict, only 66 soldiers guarded 253 Indian and black prisoners.”

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Karst writes in an email: “I stumbled across the problem when I read the Fort Pike column. I was interested by it, so I decided to read further. I quickly found the state’s web site and read the content there. Midway through, I was like, ‘Didn’t I just read this paragraph?’ …

“A recent column on the definition of the word Creole is the second problematic piece I’ve come across. It appears to be borrowed from a definition on an online dictionary.”

Merriam-Webster.com: “Today Creole has widely varying meanings. In Louisiana it can mean either French-speaking white descendants of early French and Spanish settlers, or people of mixed descent who speak a form of French and Spanish. In Latin America the term may denote a local-born person of pure Spanish extraction or a member of the urban Europeanized classes as opposed to rural Indians. In the West Indies it refers to all people, regardless of ancestry, who are part of the Caribbean culture.”

Blake: “Today the word has widely varying meanings. In Louisiana it can mean either French-speaking white descendants of early French and Spanish settlers, or people of mixed ancestry. In Latin America the term may denote a local-born person of pure Spanish blood or a member of the urban Europeanized classes (as opposed to rural Indians). In the West Indies it refers to all people, regardless of ancestry, who are part of the Caribbean culture.”

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