Blair J. Parker, a sports reporter at the News Leader in Staunton, Virginia, was fired on Tuesday after an internal investigation revealed she "fabricated at least four stories and plagiarized from other stories on the Internet."
Parker was suspended last week after a story she wrote was revealed to have been made up of parts plagiarized from at least five different sources. One top of that, "Only one source was clearly real and correctly identified, and he disputes the quote attributed to him."
This could be a record for the number of plagiarized sources contained in one article. A column from the paper's executive editor describes how that then led to a larger investigation:
Following that first revelation, we began to dig deeper into Parker’s work. On Friday, Oct. 19, we realized that a community profile she had written — and which had been prepared for Friday publication before Thursday’s revelations — also was suspect. The story profiled Andrew Koch and identified him as a University of Virginia student and a Cavaliers fan. A photo was included. At 8:52 a.m. someone who identified himself as Andrew Koch came onto our newspaper forums and said that while his name and photo were used on the profile, he was not a University of Virginia student, a Cavalier’s fan and he had not vacationed in Cancun. He said that despite the use of his name and image, he was not the subject of the article. He said the photo was identical to one on a website at James Madison University, where he works. We could not locate a student Andrew Koch at U.Va. and on Saturday (Oct. 20) ran a correction stating that the profile was false.
The editor then details four more incidents of plagiarism and/or fabrication. Parker has owned up to her transgressions. "When asked about the problems in the
deer-hunting story on Thursday, Parker told Publisher Roger Watson and
me that she took full responsibility for her actions," writes David Frtiz. "On Tuesday, she
admitted the other fabrications and offered no explanation."
He concludes with an apology:
So I apologize to you for the actions of our reporter. Our goal from the first sign of wrongdoing was to quickly and transparently understand the scope of the problem and to take firm action. It’s our responsibility to our readers. I also apologize that we didn’t figure it out sooner.
Here are two corrections published by the paper before it fired Parker:
The reporting for a local profile on Page A4 Friday cannot be verified. The photo that ran with it is of an Andrew Koch, but that Andrew Koch was not interviewed for the piece. Because of this, we retract the entire profile. The work of Blair J. Parker, the reporter who prepared the profile, is under review by The News Leader. That section of A4 was prepared early on Thursday, before questions were raised about her other work. More information will be released once the investigation is complete. Link
A Thursday B1 story about the fall deer and trout seasons by Blair J. Parker was plagiarized from several sources.
We have confirmed that large portions of the story came from other sources and that facts within the story were incorrect, thus we retract the article in its entirety.
We are beginning a thorough investigation of Parker's work since she joined the newspaper in 2006.
Plagiarism and knowingly publishing inaccurate information violates The News Leader's Principles of Ethical Conduct, a commitment to you that we take very seriously. We will report our findings once the investigation is complete
— David Fritz, executive editor Link