Inside Our Pages: An e-mail an editor never wants

In three years as a reporter and editor for The Hatchet, I never imagined having to write anything of this nature. After all the safeguards we have in place, it did not seem possible for any type of plagiarism to seep through the editing process and into the finished product.

But Monday afternoon, I received an e-mail alerting me to striking similarities between ideas espoused in our anonymous “Under the Covers” column and the book “The Game” and the Web site “Mystery Man.” After a careful review by three Hatchet editors and myself, this newspaper has concluded that the columnist, Sahil Mansuri, borrowed ideas from the aforementioned sources for his column.

Mansuri, a junior, said he did not do so with any malice or intention. He said he simply believed that the ideas – including phrases, acronyms and strategies – were allowed to be borrowed from other sources without attribution. He is not a paid staff member and his column is being suspended indefinitely. The female sex columnist will continue as planned.

The Hatchet’s sex columnists are granted anonymity so that they are able to freely express ideas that they would typically be embarrassed to talk about. Last year’s sex columnist was one of the paper’s most widely read features.

The Hatchet takes extreme care in its editing process to avoid blunders such as this. Each story goes through at least three levels of editing and careful fact checking before it is placed in the paper each Sunday and Wednesday night.

With the increasing prevalence of the Internet and accessibility of information, situations like this are becoming more prevalent. Last year, The Harvard Crimson suspended a staff member whose cartoon bore resemblance to a piece in Newsday. The Daily Pennsylvanian suspended a columnist whose work was similar to a piece on Yahoo.com.

Despite the embarrassment, our staff appreciates feedback such as this. We will keep strict safeguards in place to protect the paper from any further embarrassments. The Hatchet has been the University’s newspaper of record for 104 years. We look forward to continuing our tradition of excellence and providing you with information and entertainment for years to come.

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