Three weeks after catching one examiner.com writer plagiarizing news stories, we stumbled upon another cut-and-paste offender: Kathleen Odenthal.
We can't help but wonder whether examiner.com, which calls itself a "dynamic entertainment, news and lifestyle network that serves more than 20 million monthly readers," has a serious problem with plagiarism by its low-paid writers. If even 1 percent of its 90,000 "examiners" were plagiarizing, that would be 900 people pumping out stolen words on a regular basis. Although the writers agree to publish only original material, the website operators don't review the articles before they're published.
Odenthal, a New Jersey photographer who covers medical-marijuana issues for the site, sounded near tears as she bleated, "I didn't mean to do it!" and "I'm only 25!" when we phoned her this morning.
It appears as though the only original bit of writing in her article was where she stated that the study about teens was released "this morning," making the plagiarized article appear fresh.
After Odenthal picked up the phone, we asked her if she knew the material in her article came from the January 3 post on Valley Fever. She did, she said.
How did it happen? "I'm not sure," she replied.
She then explained that she pasted the paragraphs from our story onto her screen, meaning to "put my own spin on things." But somehow, she ended up hitting "publish" before she added her own spin.
"I'm embarrassed -- I'm mortified!" she said. "That's not really my style."
She denied that she'd plagiarized for any of her other stories.
Yet when we looked up her author page and saw that she'd published 13 articles and recipes on Wednesday alone, we were immediately suspicious. We picked one at random: a story about a medical-marijuana patient suing the town of "Medford, Wisconsin." The byline is "Kathleen Odenthal," with no other attribution.
Cutting and pasting a sentence of the story into Google, we found an essentially identical article by Sanne Specht of Oregon's Mail Tribune newspaper. The articles have one interesting difference: Specht's article doesn't mention Wisconsin -- because the case actually involves Medford, Oregon.
Another article she posted Wednesday under her byline, this one about Washington's new legalization law, appears to have come from one published on celebstoner.com by drug policy activist Doug McVay.
The plagiarizer we told you about in mid-March, Renee Greene, admitted to lifting material from other articles, but said she'd done it intentionally in order to protest examiner.com's low pay.
The site's policy, upon receiving a complaint about a plagiarizer, is to remove all of the author's work from the site, as if it never existed. Examiner.com removed all of Greene's articles after being contacted last month by New Times. But the site never acknowledged the problem to its readers.
We assume the same thing will happen this time, with examiner.com simply removing Odenthal's articles with no explanation to its readers.
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We e-mailed Justin Jimenez, examiner.com's senior director for content, this morning to let him know we were doing another blog post on another plagiarizing examiner. We held off giving him the name, though, so that our readers can see Odenthal's work before the site takes it down.
Jimenez replied that he can't comment specifically about the latest case without more information.
"But speaking in the same broad terms," he wrote, "I do not believe we have a serious problem with plagiarism, nor do I believe it impacts anywhere near the percentage you suggest."
From what we understand about the lack of general reviews of writers' work at examiner.com, there's no way he can know the extent of the problem.