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Another Case of Plagiarism--This Time by a Journalist

In early February Eric Black, a Minneapolis Star Tribune staff reporter, provided readers with two essays outlining the history of Iraq. The essays were long and detailed, containing numerous quotations from a number of well-informed historians. Any newspaper would have been proud to post them. They were far more thoughtful than the usual fare published by regional papers on topics related to international events.

A few weeks later, the Melbourne Herald Sun published two essays by Glenn Mitchell outlining the history of Iraq. They too were long, detailed and thoughtful. Another coup for another regional paper? Hardly. The articles are nearly the same word for word. Mitchell's essays seemed to have been taken directly from Eric Black's.

Eric Black:

In the centuries after the Mongol disaster, Iraq served mostly as a buffer or battleground between the great empires based in Turkey and Persia. During most of the period from 1538 to 1914, Iraq was dominated by the Ottoman Turks, who divided what is now Iraq into three provinces.

Glenn Mitchell:

For centuries, Iraq served mostly as a buffer or battleground between the great empires based in Turkey and Persia. From 1538 to 1914, Iraq was dominated by the Ottoman Turks, who divided what is now Iraq into three provinces.

In his piece Eric Black cited historian Renee Worringer, which was not unexpected. Worringer teaches in Black's backyard in Minnesota. But Glenn Mitchell, writing from Australia, also cited Worringer, though he omitted her academic affiliation, which Black had included.


Historian Renee Worringer, who teaches Mideast history at the University of Minnesota, said many Americans seem unaware of the degree to which Iraqi attitudes toward the United States are shaped by their previous experience with Western imperialism.


Middle Eastern historian Renee Worringer says many Americans seem unaware of how much Iraqi attitudes to the US are shaped by previous experience with the West.

The parallels go on and on, leading inescapably to the conclusion that Mitchell either plagiarized from Black or somebody played a bad joke on him, placing his name on Black's articles--and not once, but twice.

Eric Black wrote the paper in March to complain. He told us in an email in April, "The Aussie paper still has never replied. That troubles me for obvious reasons, but I haven't been losing sleep over it." In mid-May he finally got a response from the paper's deputy editor, John Trevorrow, who told him, "I am investigating the matter, and I will get back to you as soon as I can." Finally, in early June Trevorrow called to apologize, saying that "he had investigated and it was a clear case of plagiarism." (Email from Eric Black to HNN, 6-11-03.)

HNN's Alan Weisberg also contacted the paper, which brags on its website that it is "Australia's biggest-selling daily newspaper." The paper declined to respond. It is owned by Rupert Murdoch's media empire, The News Corporation. On June 11 HNN emailed a draft of this article to deputy editor Trevorrow. He promptly responded, but insisted that his response was "NOT FOR PUBLICATION."

So who is Glenn Mitchell? To find out we purchased a pass to archive material on the paper's website. (To gain access we had to agree to the publisher's terms, which included this statement: "All material on this site is subject to copyright.")

Up popped dozens of articles by Glenn Mitchell, most of them listed in the LIFESTYLE category. The first article gives you the flavor. It included this catchy line: "Melanie Symons turned sex bomb for the Logies, but now it's back to work."

Nowhere on the site are Mitchell's articles on Iraq. Had they been taken down since questions were first raised about them? Perhaps. But they remain listed on Lexis Nexis, where we originally came across them.

The Herald Sun told Eric Black that it has severely disciplined Glenn Mitchell. We do not know what form the punishment took. Was Mitchell reprimanded? Docked pay? Put on suspension? The Herald Sun refuses to say. He continues to write for the paper.

Perhaps one of our readers on a visit to Australia can stop in at the Herald Sun and talk with him. It would be interesting to hear what he has to say.