Charlottesville’s Daily Progress prides itself on meticulous pre-screening of “letters to the editor” (LTE) considered for publication—often demanding that writers cite sources prior to production. The Daily Progress “Letters Policy” clearly states that “Letters should be the original work of the signatory.”
So far, so good.
In the April 11, 2011 edition of the paper, the following letter was published, attributed to Miki Liszt of Charlottesville:
Fight for a budget that helps those who can’t help themselves
Recently, I joined faith leaders across the country in fasting because I believe the budget that has been debated in Washington is immoral. This budget leaves children and pregnant women hungry, our veterans homeless, students without teachers and sick people without health care at a time when billionaires were just given massive tax cuts. A society that leeches the poor and middle class to give to the rich is neither moral nor just.
I hope Washington will hear me and fight for a budget that protects all Americans, not just the wealthiest among us.
Interestingly, Ms. Liszt’s letter reads just like a line out of a March 17, 2011 MoveOn.org email:
Date: Thu, 17 Mar 2011 10:27:45 -0700
Subject: So wrong
“Cutting food aid to hungry women and children in the middle of an economic crisis is wrong. Please oppose the devastating cuts in the Republican budget.”
What kind of country cuts food aid to hungry pregnant women and children in the middle of an economic crisis—while giving a giant tax break to billionaires?
The Republicans are winning the battle over the budget, hands down, even though what they’re fighting for is, put simply, immoral. A cut of at least $400 million from a crucial program that puts food on the table for pregnant women and small children. Crippling the EPA. Completely eliminating funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, AmeriCorps, and high-speed rail. [emphasis added]
But Liszt’s plagiaristic tendencies worsen. She lifts concepts and phrases nearly verbatim from Justin Ruben, Executive Director of MoveOn.org, as featured on Huffington Post, April 1, 2011 (ten days prior to the Daily Progress publication of Liszt’s missive):
The heads of MoveOn.org, Service Employees International Union, Center Community Change, Green For All, Color of Change, Courage Campaign, Presente.org and CREDO announced on Friday morning that they would join a fast started earlier this week by religious activists to spotlight perceived injustices in the proposed federal budget cuts […]
“At a time when billionaires are getting massive tax cuts and Wall Street profits are sky high, balancing the budget on the backs of those most vulnerable in America is simply immoral,” said Justin Ruben, Executive Director of MoveOn.org. “I am fasting because this budget will leave pregnant women and children hungry, sick people without healthcare, children without pre-school and students without teachers–while giving tax breaks to those who caused this crisis.” [emphasis added]
Nevermind the vapidity of Liszt’s letter or her inability to compose original thought. Forget that faith leaders should not encourage coveting (a violation of God’s 10th Commandment). Disregard that the Constitution grants no specific authority to the federal government to hire teachers, to feed people, or to unjustly confiscate private wealth through “democratic” demand. Ignore that the “immoral” budget being debated originally was put forth (but in abdication, never approved) by Democrats, when Democrats held both houses of Congress in addition the White House.
What about the Daily Progress? Has their pre-publication plagiarism-checking mechanism been dismantled? Could Liszt’s “lifting” have been difficult to ascertain?
While not the first time that the paper has been duped by a literary thief, hopefully this breach will spur internal procedure review. Consumers of the Daily Progress deserve at least an acknowledgement of the deception, and preferably, a retraction followed by complete clarification of the newspaper’s LTE processes and policies. Readers’ trust and veracity of content are primary components critical to the paper’s ongoing viability.