Plagiarism at the Super Bowl

Usually, stories are scarce at the Super Bowl simply due to the fact that over a two week span, they are rehashed over and over again to the point where there is hardly any news to report. But that changed on Tuesday when word began surfacing that a reporter apparently plagiarized an online column written by Sports Illustrated’s Peter King.

Ken Powers of the Worcester Telegram and Gazette was covering the New England Patriots in Jacksonville for his paper when he received a call from his bosses to return home immediately. Powers did. Then, people began to search for his story on January 30. King writes his Monday Morning Quarterback column every week for SI.com and readers of both stories found not only did they look similar, but Powers hardly changed any words.

The comparisons of the stories appear at Boston Sports Media Watch, a website that regularly links to stories by the Boston newspapers and also provides a check on the media. When you see the stories, you’ll notice that just a few words were changed.

As it stands now, Powers is on suspension. Reporters have been trying to call his house and his cell phone and both have been disconnected for the time being. The New York Times Company owns the Telegram and Gazette and it is another nightmare as the Times continues to recover from the Jayson Blair episode and another of the Times’ newspaper, the Boston Globe, had to deal with its own plagiarism scandal involving Mike Barnicle and a fabrication episode involving Patricia Smith. The Times came down hard on Blair eventually forcing him out. Expect the same punishment for Powers.

In addition, the Times is facing racism charges against a free Boston weekly newspaper that it purchased late last year.

It is hard to believe that in this day and age that Powers would stoop to lifting an online column, especially King’s which is read by many football fans. To his credit, King reportedly called the Telegram and Gazette offices asking the paper not to fire Powers. It is not known if King’s pleas will help Powers or not.

What is known is that Powers, a respected Patriots beat writer for the Worcester Telegram and Gazette, is facing a professional and personal crisis. Where this will lead him is unknown, but suffice it to say that he won’t be writing for the Telegram and Gazette anytime soon.

Update: February 4, 2005, 11:20 a.m.

Ken Powers was fired by the Worcester Telegram and Gazette Thursday after meeting with the paper’s editors. Powers commented to a Boston television station that he had a “spotless record” and that the firing was a “terrible injustice”. Well, Boston Sports Media Watch has found another instance where Powers copied someone else’s work and passed it off as his own. This time, a Michael Smith column for ESPN.com where again, Powers changes a few words here and there.

In a statement, the Worcester Telegram and Gazette in a statement to the New York Times (registration required) said Powers had at least “half a dozen cases” of plagiarism.

I would hardly call half a dozen cases a spotless record and the fact that Powers would use well-known websites shows a laziness on his part.

Kudos for Bruce Allen at Boston Sports Media Watch for finding the offending articles and staying on top of the story.