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Councilman Shrugs Off Plagiarism Charge, But Authors He Copied Fume

Derek Reeve defends writings that lifted the words of journalists and columnists. Academic experts question Reeve's fitness and integrity as a college instructor.

Most writers agree that imitation is flattering. But they still want credit—even when the "imitation" appears in a blog.

City Councilman Derek Reeve, facing criticism for , offers a different view. Writing in today's Orange County Register, he acknowledged "carelessly" using "previously published material" while blogging for San Juan Capistrano Patch. But he dismissed accusations of plagiarism, saying blogs are informal musings "in which the standards of communication are relaxed."

Reeve didn't directly address instances in which he similarly lifted the copyrighted words of journalists and other authors for City Council staff reports and a press release he wrote.

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Reeve, an attorney who teaches political science at two Orange County colleges, said the standards he applies in his legal and scholarly writings, in which he takes "pains to add footnotes to identify the origin of ideas," shouldn't be applied to his online words.

Academic experts and several of the authors whose work he copied disagreed.

Other Writers Criticize Reeve

According to those whose words he lifted, Reeve's actions were plagiarism and theft, plain and simple. But one writer acknowledged that bloggers often face less scrutiny for copyright infringement.

"There seems to be an idea that there should be a lesser standard for work on the Internet than work that appears in print," said Richard F. LaMountain, a guest columnist for the Oregonian and one of the writers Reeve copied. "With the increasing relevance and credibility of blogs, I think the standards really should be ... closer."

LaMountain said Reeve's blogs unquestionably bear more than a passing resemblance to his own words, but said he doesn’t intend to take any action against the councilman for duplications such as this:

REEVE:

If mandated for employers, it would deny those jobs to unauthorized alien applicants and confine them instead to citizens and legal residents. This would shrink our oversupply of labor, raise wages for lower-skilled jobs, and make those jobs more attractive to Americans.

LAMOUNTAIN:

If mandated for U.S. employers, it would deny those jobs to illegal-immigrant applicants and confine them instead to citizens and legal residents. This would shrink America's oversupply of labor, raise wages for lower-skilled jobs, and make those jobs more attractive to Americans …

"Some of the sentences are verbatim," LaMountain said.

Reeve didn't respond to a request for comment for this story.

Reeve similarly copied from a June 2010 opinion piece by former ABC reporter and commentator John Stossel. Richard Newcombe, the founder of Creators Syndicate, which sells Stossel's writings to newspapers and others, had sharp words for Reeve.

"It’s obvious he agrees with Stossel, he likes Stossel ... therefore he should show him the courtesy of attribution," Newcombe said. "If he’s going to try to plagiarize people, he should certainly not pick someone as widely read and known as John Stossel."

When Reeve copied Stossel's words without attributing them, he plagiarized, Newcombe said. "I think plagiarism is horrible, it’s theft," he added. But Newcombe also didn't seem inclined to take any legal action.

Questions About Academic Integrity

Thomas Bartlett, a reporter for The Chronicle of Higher Education who has written extensively about professors who plagiarize, said the standards for attribution vary in different industries, but the same general rules apply: "Verbatim writing needs to be in quotes, attributed to the person, period."

The two colleges where Reeve teaches political science, Concordia University and Saddleback, declined to comment on the matter. A Saddleback spokeswoman suggested it would be inappropriate for the school to say anything because Reeve produced his blogs outside the academic forum.

It's not unprecedented for colleges to discipline instructors for off-campus plagiarism. In 2004, a committee at the University of New Hampshire penalized a professor for "scholarly misconduct" over a column published in Manchester's The Union Leader.

Gregory F. Scholtz, a director at the American Association of University Professors, said disciplinary decisions are often made by a faculty committee that weighs whether a teacher's work outside the classroom has any bearing on his professional competence.

Saddleback's code of conduct requires faculty to "exhibit intellectual honesty and integrity in all scholarly endeavors."

Although Reeve's work on Patch arguably occurred outside that realm, Scholtz said it still raises questions about his intellectual honesty. Scholtz referred to the association's statement on professional ethics, which says professors, "guided by a deep conviction of the worth and dignity of the advancement of knowledge ... practice intellectual honesty. Although the professors may follow subsidiary interests, these interests must never seriously hamper or compromise their freedom of inquiry."

Reeve didn't respond to Patch's request for copies of his academic and legal writings, including a USC dissertation listed on his resume. USC, where he earned his bachelor's and juris doctorate degrees, said it had no record of any  dissertations by Reeve on file at its law library. (Dissertations are not a graduation requirement, and Reeve's might have been written for independent study, the school said). Reeve is also a doctoral candidate at Claremont University.

Roy Bauer, a philosophy instructor at Irvine Valley College who has taken jabs at Reeve's politics as a city councilman, is now blasting Reeve for the blog posts.

Bauer's blog, Dissent the Blog ... Life Among Neanderthals, questioned Reeve's integrity and fitness for teaching. If Reeve "repeatedly represents others' writings as his own ... [he] cannot be trusted to argue honestly; he certainly cannot be trusted to instill academic honesty in his students."

Josh Francis October 07, 2011 at 05:28 AM
You may be a libertarian Roy :-] Note: The Patch is one of the few news sites that lists the political party of their journalists which is risky but a good idea I think. Now it is true (and I might be stereotyping here) that most or a higher number of journalists are left-leaning in IDEOLOGY but not in their WRITING. You can't judge a journalist by one writing. So unless we had multiple 90 comment articles on every one of Jenna's articles questioning her objectivity you can't say she or Roy are "Liberal" or "Conservative" in their writing/editing. Journalists like judges (but way underpaid ;) swear an oath to objectivity that we don't break unless we are an opinion writer or a bad apple, the second a journalist becomes Liberal, Conservative, Communist, or Socialist, Etc. in their writing the rest of the journalism community shuns them....which is a bad thing because (no offense Patch) but a journalist's dream isn't to stay at a local paper/news website paper thingy (WHAT ARE YOU PATCH!), and only with a good record of objectivity can a writer make it to; Breaking news reporter for the NY Times or Investigative Reporter for the LA Times or Editor in Chief of the OC Register (as I intend to become ;) This is a good conversation hopefully we can see these on the Register after our new comment thing takes off.
marcopolo October 07, 2011 at 11:43 PM
He didn't run to a newspaper that would hear his side of the story...he REFUSED to give his side of the story to Ms. Chandler and then ran to another paper, a competitor, just to spite the Patch for outing his theft.
marcopolo October 07, 2011 at 11:50 PM
Rick I'm confused as to how you can still be saying Patch did not offer Reeve's side of the story...THEY BEGGED HIM FOR A RESPONSE, they were DYING to give his side of the story...but Reeve's refused, so you can stop blaming the Patch and blame Reeve for WITHHOLDING his side of the story from the Patch.
Carl Hamilton October 08, 2011 at 12:01 AM
I'm just flabbergasted at some of the stupidity I see in these (and other stories') comments... Reeve could have explained himself a million times to the Patch as they tried multiple times to get a statement from him. This has nothing to do with political stance, and is simply a moral issue. I Rick Lyons painted a beautiful piece of art, and I took it and placed it in my own gallery and claimed it to be my own...that would be wrong. There is a KNOWN thing called "Intellectual Property." Anytime an investigative piece like this ousts a political figure of some wrongdoing, there will always be lap-dogs who come rushing to the aid of their candidate -- placing blame everywhere except where it belongs. Reeve was wrong. Plain and simple. Doesn't matter if he's conservation, liberal, atheist, a satanist, libertarian, gay, straight, mammal, reptile, amphibian...Stealing is wrong. And finally, just because the Patch broke the story on (conservative) Mr. Reeve's theft...does not make the Patch liberal propaganda but rather a positive example of smart and investigative journalism at the hyper-local level.
Carole Matson October 08, 2011 at 01:58 AM
Whistlin' Pete...you are right on...however, we have ALL tried to get this point across to Lyons and Perry. They are just closed minded, retiree's with nothing better to do than disagree with the majority wherever possible. I will no longer try to "change their minds"..I implore all of you, like me...just let them be...their judgement will be with our Lord in Heaven. We cannot change their minds, no matter how hard we try to present the truth of the Reeve story to them. Set in their ways, time on their hands and a false expectation of what Conservative/Christian means. I pray that others do not think the rest of us are of the same beliefs.

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