Even the Montana Standard has stooped to an all new low this time.
The same news entity that had the gall to fire, or as they called it “eliminating the position” of sports editor Bruce Sayler, is now hard at work perfecting their new style of reporting: plagiarism.
Working off a tip from a reader of both the Standard and buttesports.com, editor Bill Foley saw some glaring similarities in the story he published on Butte High tabbing former Anaconda girls’ basketball coach Maury Cook on Monday night (April 27) and the one that showed up Tuesday morning at mtstandard.com.
For anyone living under a rock, the Web site buttesports.com is a local news outlet supplanting sports and community content via Butte Broadcasting (KOPR-KGLM-KBOW) published daily, if not hourly sometimes, by Foley. Seeing a need for the lack of sports coverage in the area and wanting to expand the brand of his radio stations, owner Ron Davis launched the site that has been a hit with locals since August 2012. News, columns by a bevy of qualified journalists and an array of fantastic photography (namely by Jason Silvernale and myself, Foley’s pictures suck) to put a stamp on solid reporting of Butte High, Butte Central, Southwestern A Conference schools and Frontier Conference news and tidbits including big contributions for Montana Tech and Montana Western has been the calling card of the site since its inception.
Confused, maybe even a touch hurt, Foley contacted me to take a look at both stories posted to get my thoughts. As it was attributed by Foley, I was the one who let him know Butte High had decided to offer the job to Cook Monday evening. I did so because I know the speed and diligence of Foles, and I know he would want to make that information known to the public as soon as possible and do good by our former head coach and educator.
Once I tweeted out the initial news, Foley began fact-checking Cook’s past history (with me via phone calls and text messages), even called the interim coach within 10 minutes of me telling him about the hire. Within 20 minutes from the moment I gave Foley the information, he conducted the interview and posted the following story on buttesports.com:
Then, at approximately 6 a.m. the next morning, this story was posted on the Montana Standard website:
In the aftermath, I even posted a comment to the Standard’s Facebook thread announcing the story. A snippet captured by Dave Dunmire shows a few of the comments, but unfortunately the threat was removed after the administrator found the facts a bit appalling.
Ironically, if I was charged with a criminal offense and the Standard reported on that fact, calls to take down the post would have been met with the “public’s right to know” defense. However call out a newspaper for plagiarism and links and comments to such abuse seem to fade away in thin air.
Foley was once an award-winning journalist at the Montana Standard, and from my recollection the last sports columnist-journalist to earn such accolades from the Montana Newspaper Association while employed there. He left the Standard without a job in hand following the firing of his boss and mentor as a big “eff you” to the Lee Enterprises-owned entity – one that has single-handedly ruined what used to be one of the best newspapers in Montana.
Foley fostered no ill-will to the workers of the Standard even though, like me and other former employees of Lee Enterprises, we all despised how they treated one of the true gems of our community in Sayler. But time and time again, these little jabs keep popping up over time.
Doing some more digging, Foley has found some other glaring instances where those working at the Standard have chosen to steal almost word-for-word other content on local news stories instead of actually doing any reporting of their own.
There’s a difference using someone like Foley for information and taking his work. Citing his information is a good practice because he’s knowledgeable about the history and cognizant of the direction of Butte-area athletics. But cutting and pasting his work without so much as changing the flow of the story is the very definition of plagiarism.
You see, when Lee Enterprises starting cutting their competent and loyal staff so their CEOs and CFOs could reign in huge bonuses restructuring the failing company for bankruptcy, they also starting replacing that staff with nothing more than cheap, unqualified employees. The reach of a small town newspaper contributor is beyond just seeing their name in print and recognizing them at a local watering hole. The really good ones stir the pot in order to give the news no matter their allegiance to those involved and put their name on every original submission, good or bad. Foley was exactly that.
Often times after my days at the Standard were over and I was writing for the Anaconda Leader, a biweekly newspaper in Anaconda, I would get into the conversation with locals about how ignorant Foley can be. “We will never buy that paper again,” or “I’m cancelling my subscription,” were the common phrases told to me. Yet, those people were the first to turn to the sports page on Tuesday morning to see what else that meatball would choose to print.
I always told Foley and the other good guys at the Standard, “The Standard gets it first, the Leader gets it right” when the common fight between daily and biweekly newsies would commence. But in all honesty, when Sayler, Foley and Pat Ryan were there, it was very rare that any information was incorrect or misunderstood.
Sadly, those days are now gone. I’d like to play this off as just a misunderstanding of the way content is gathered, but there’s just no way that could be the case in this business. Journalism 101 tells you to always cite sources and attribute content to its rightful owner even when they are better at their jobs than you.
And what’s even more comical, the Standard had the stones to print the following statement at the end of the submission.
“Copyright 2015 Montana Standard. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.”
Take your own lead on this one fellas: Stop publishing stuff that isn’t yours as a way to play off some sort of competence in your jobs.
Lastly, the best part of me giving Foley the statistical information for Cooks reign in Anaconda via text came in a huge win for me. As a sidebar, if I ever die I give nobody the right to publish the conversations had via text between Foley and I, it will set society back 50 years (and that’s coming off the heels of alleged murderer Ray Lewis publishing a two-minute call to end violence in Baltimore). But I digress.
The conversation went like this:
Foley: What is his (Maury’s) cell?
Foley: You are a (expletive). I wrote it down. (expletive).
Me: Tell me tell me, who do I turn to? (redacted phone number). Did you know Tommy Tutone is one of his assistants?
Yes, I got him on the Jenny, Jenny bit, which has become a lot easier to do now with the array of cell phone prefixes available. Still, it was classic. And he’s an idiot.
But he’s not a thief, and that should mean a whole lot to Butte people searching for truth in their news stories.