Hits A Patch Of Black Ice

Perhaps one of the worst winter driving conditions one can encounter is “black ice”.    Black ice is an extremely hazardous road condition that is known to cause numerous fatalities annually.  We couldn’t find any insurance statistics on it, but it’s a well-understood phenomenon in winter months…

This condition cannot be easily detected by eye when driving even under ordinary visibility, because the road appears normal and trustworthy, due to the ice’s deceptive transparency.  That is why it is termed “black”.

Likewise, readers would never question the authenticity of published news accounts in the local newspapers, or while cruising the Internet Superhighway. has recently lost traction and credibility, by creating its own slippery slope of “black ice” plagiarism.

Plagiarism is defined as the unauthorized use or publication of another’s written work.   And there appear to be no checks or balances with on news material being delivered to your virtual “curb side,” now desktop.   Despite their pleas for forgiveness from his publishers, who wish to remain anonymous.

The apology follows:

An Apology to Palo Alto Patch Readers

Patch does not tolerate plagiarism.

December 27, 2010

To Palo Alto Patch Readers:

We recently discovered that one of our freelance writers lifted information for one of his business reports from VentureBeat, an online news site covering technology and innovation in Silicon Valley and elsewhere.  While we expect every freelancer to practice the highest standards of journalism, we also audit to make sure that all Palo Alto Patch content is original or fully and properly attributed.

The writer has been told that taking work of other writers or news organizations without attribution is absolutely not acceptable. We have apologized to VentureBeat, whose work was copied. We apologize to you, the reader.
We know that you expect Palo Alto Patch to provide accurate and original reporting on our community, which is why we will continue to be relentless in making certain our reporting, meets the high standards our readers expect.”

Well, we wholeheartedly agree with the apologist’s expressed views, and applaud Palo Alto Patch’s courageous mea culpas, noting that’s great news of their intention to audit!  But what other safeguards will they implement to prevent future acts of plagiarism?

It’s a wait-and-see game at this point. But we can only comment, What a way to deliver your news product into the Palo Alto community in the first few weeks,  stolen from someone else’s work verbatim, without their express permission or syndication rights!

I’m very surprised neither the Palo Alto Weekly, Daily Post, nor The Daily News have commented on the plagiarism.’s writing fails the journalistic smell test, even though they do cite a very impressive line-up of news reporters, according to their website. Bottom line? These acts of plagiarism are ethically no better than backdating stock options.

It’s an unethical and slippery patch of ice that should blow away a news writer’s credibility to his readers.  We believe any seasoned or reputable journalist quoting sources who wishes to protect his professional integrity and credibility and not wind up in the virtual ditches in hyperspace must always follow the “rules of the road,” black ice or not, by indicating approved attribution or syndication rights wherever possible, and by either indenting or enclosing the borrowed material in quotations as we did here, so that readers can be alerted to it’s source or hearsay value and judge the credibility of the source themselves.

Like “junk science” there should be no room for “junk news”.