A San Antonio Express-News newsroom employee resigned Tuesday after admitting she used, without attribution, information from a Web site for a Christmas Day column. Later research uncovered further examples of plagiarism in two other columns.
The initial investigation found information, taken from Wikipedia, a free Internet encyclopedia, was published in the Watchdog column on Page 2B of the Metro section Dec. 25. The information that was not attributed concerned the origin of Dec. 25 as the birth date of Jesus Christ.
Jacqueline Gonzalez, the Watchdog columnist and administrative assistant to Express-News Editor Robert Rivard, resigned Tuesday after admitting the judgment error Friday.
Gonzalez has been an Express-News employee for three years and became Rivard's assistant last fall after previously working as a newsroom editorial assistant.
"Nothing is more important to us than the trust of our readers," Rivard said. "They have to know with some certainty that we act swiftly and unequivocally in the face of such a transgression."
An Express-News employee discovered the plagiarized information last week after the material had been published.
Subsequent to her admission that she lifted information from Wikipedia, the Express-News research department Tuesday scoured 25 columns Gonzalez wrote as the Watchdog. The research discovered two more examples where material was lifted from other sources and used without crediting those sources.
One, a Nov. 20, 2006, Watchdog column about wedding insurance, found Gonzalez plagiarized whole phrases and only slightly rewrote other information from a Web site of the Insurance Information Institute.
The other example was from a Dec. 4, 2006, Watchdog column in which the research staff found Gonzalez had lifted information about identity theft from the AES/PHEAA Investigative Services Web site. AES is an acronym for American Education Services. PHEAA is the acronym for the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency.
The Express-News ethics policy is clear on attributing sources. The three Gonzalez columns were in direct violation of two key points of that policy:
"Never plagiarize — the deliberate submission and/or usage of another's words, images or graphics without attribution to the original source taints the credibility and reputation of the offender and the Express-News, and;
"When inserting information verbatim, place the copied information in quotation marks and note the source immediately."
Contact Bob Richter at (210) 250-3264 or firstname.lastname@example.org.