This isn't the proudest period for ESPN's news division. We've spent a lot of time talking about First Take and Tim Tebow, but there's another little something that ESPN still hasn't dealt with: What's up with all those Lynn Hoppes stories?
Whether it's verbatim cut-and-paste jobs or ethically ambiguous paraphrasing, most of Hoppes's tidbits—and tidbits are the primary medium in which Hoppes works—are pulled uncredited from his subject's Wikipedia page.
See, there we copied from ourselves, but we put it in a blockquote. Hoppes didn't do that. In all, there were a dozen cases, spanning 10 Hoppes stories, that had lines directly or near-directly lifted from Wikipedia, and three more copied from press releases. Three days later, an ESPN spokesman told us:
This obviously fell short of our editorial standards. Even though he used multiple legitimate news sources to gather background information, we should always recite even the most basic facts in an original voice, and source as warranted. That wasn't the case here. It was an example of journalistic laziness, and we've addressed it.
That was July 14. There's room to debate ESPN's use of "multiple," "legitimate," "background," and "even the most basic"—but still, Hoppes's bosses rightly identified it as "journalistic laziness" and bad sourcing.
Now, about those editorial standards ... While we were reporting this week's story, we noticed that Hoppes stories remained exactly the same as they had been before we published our July piece. There weren't any updates, corrections, editor's notes, links, or attributions to Wikipedia. There are still dozen examples of text lifted straight from Wikipedia, sitting comfortably in the ESPN archives.
We let ESPN know about this in our piece five days ago. Still, nothing. At what point do we just conclude that ESPN is the plagiarism business? Maybe another month?
We've reached out to an ESPN spokesman and we'll let you know what we hear.