A distinguished University of Missouri-Columbia journalism professor will no longer write a weekly newspaper column after admitting he plagiarized material from a student reporter.
John Merrill, a professor emeritus at the university’s School of Journalism, wrote a Sunday column for the Columbia Missourian, a community newspaper affiliated with the school.
His Nov. 4 column about the university’s women’s and gender studies program used three quotes and other phrases taken directly from an Oct. 5 article in The Maneater, an independent student newspaper, according to the Missourian’s executive editor, Tom Warhover.
Warhover disclosed the plagiarism in his own column Sunday. A review of Merrill’s earlier work by Missourian editors found five more columns in which at least one quote had been taken from other publications without attribution, Warhover wrote.
“Missourian policy does not allow any writer to appropriate someone else’s words as his own, even when those words are within quotation marks,” he said.
While Warhover said several colleagues he consulted described Merrill’s transgression as “the ethical equivalent of a misdemeanor, not a felony,” he added that the newspaper “must hold itself to a higher standard.”
In a letter to Missourian editors, Merrill apologized for what he called “unintentional plagiarism.”
“Careless, I’ll admit, but not intentional,” he said. “All these dozens and dozens of columns and some 30 books and innumerable magazine and newspaper articles and never before have I been accused of plagiarism.”
Merrill is a former director of the Louisiana State University journalism school and also has taught at Northwestern State, Texas A&M, Maryland, Virginia, California State-Long Beach and the University of North Carolina.
He is a past winner of the Missouri Honor Medal for distinguished journalism service and a member of the Louisiana State and Iowa journalism halls of fame. Merrill has lectured and taught in more than 70 countries, according to his biography.
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