In January, City Paper writer Gadi Dechter exposed several instances of plagiarism by Michael Olesker, a columnist at the Baltimore Sun, which he found through searches of the LexisNexis database. The Sun's editors followed up on the charges with a laborious manual search of the newspaper's archives. In a Feb. 15 column, Dechter explores the reasons why the Sun's editors chose not to use the plagiarism-detecting software CopyGuard and then puts it to the test, using Olesker's work as the guinea pig. The results: the software works fairly well, and even exposed one case where another journalist appeared to plagiarize Olesker.
This week's issue contains a defense of former Baltimore Sun columnist Michael Olesker by former Sun writer David Simon. Olesker was asked to retire earlier this month after City Paper's Gadi Dechter found that Olesker had lifted language from other writers at the Sun, the New York Times and the Washington Post. Simon argues that "most reporting -- unless it utilizes confidential sources or results from some investigative effort or special project -- has a short shelf life before it becomes nonproprietary," and says that if Olesker is a plagiarist, so are all journalists.