Plagiarism with a purpose

If you thumbed through the latest edition of the Borah Senator, the paper for Borah High School in Boise, you might have noticed the editorial looked familiar.

Student writer Harmony Soto plagiarized the piece from Boise Weekly writer George Prentice. But there’s a catch: She acknowledged the plagiarism with a biting editorial note.

“You may find parts of this article similar to previous articles written by George Prentice for the Boise Weekly,” Soto wrote. “We could apologize and say this is a mistake on part of the Borah Senator Staff, but if our new state superintendent was able to get away with it, is it even worth it?”

Soto added “To our State Leadership: Remember, the students of Idaho do pay attention to the examples you’re setting.”

Soto, a senior at Borah High, said she got the idea to purposely plagiarize after hearing about parts of Sherri Ybarra’s campaign website being lifted from general election opponent Jana Jones’ site. (Ybarra said the copied text was unintentional.) Soto and her mother contacted journalists in the area to ask about using their work, and Prentice was the first to respond, she told Idaho Reports.

“I really wanted to do a story based on the superintendent election,” Soto said. “The one thing that just really really stuck out with me…. was (Ybarra’s) plagiarism scandal.”

Prentice said he was intrigued, but apprehensive. After discussing it with Senator advisor Michelle Harmon, he agreed.

“I’m not certain how I feel about having my work plagiarized,” Prentice said in a Wednesday interview. “On the other hand, I’m fascinated that it’s part of a bigger conversation about quite a bit of aggregating and borrowing and just flat-out stealing that is going on, that I can’t remember any time in my lifetime as much as I see now.”

“If it is part of the bigger conversation, that’s not a bad conversation to have,” he added.

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