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More Messages: Copy Cats

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The motto that's affixed to the

Greeley Tribune

's logo is "Your Home, Your News." But while the first part of the slogan makes sense, the second half is a bit dubious when viewed in the context of "

Tribune Puts a Stop to Questionable Practice

," an embarrassing article/confession that appears in today's edition of the newspaper.

According to reporter Sharon Dunn, who apparently drew the short straw and was stuck trying to put the best face on this mess, the Tribune has gone well beyond reprinting stories from other Associated Press-member newspapers with an AP byline -- something that's done routinely throughout the industry. "In some instances," Dunn writes, "the Tribune would forego AP's filter, running other member stories with AP bylines that hadn't been processed through the wire organization."

In other words, folks at the Trib would see pieces they liked in rival papers such as the Loveland Reporter-Herald; a Herald editor issued the complaints that finally brought the matter to a head. Then, instead of waiting until the AP made them available, or asking representatives there to put them in the hopper, they'd slap them in their paper and call it a day.

The problems with this methodology are off the chart, so it's no surprise that Dunn's report has generated a hefty number of comments on the Trib's website. An example: "Too bad the 'quality we enjoy' came from the Fort Collins and Loveland papers." Likewise, several journos who hang out on the Testy Copy Editors chat page have expressed their dismay, with one declaring, "Holy CRAP. I can't believe anybody did that even once."

In fact, folks at the Tribune have been borrowing from competitors in unauthorized fashion for around a decade. Moreover, the person who unwittingly began using this technique was former Trib editor Chris Cobler, who (irony alert) is set to become managing editor of Poynter online, a branch of the Poynter Institute, a Florida-based school that's devoted itself to, among other things, championing journalistic ethics.

Sounds like this incident would make a good lesson for students. Perhaps Cobler could sit in. -- Michael Roberts

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