|Former President Richard Nixon is not|
mentioned in the article
BuzzFeed is known for click bait style articles, so it was surprising to find they had any guidelines whatsoever. This announcement made me curious how and where they had determined Johnson had crossed the line. In Smith's apology he wrote "We have corrected the instances of plagiarism, and added an editor’s note to each." So, I decided to find out what they had changed to avoid the plagiarism.
One of the articles that was plagiarized was called "24 Delightful Inauguration Firsts." Calling it an article is being generous. It's 24 sentences about "inauguration firsts." From the URL, I can determine it was originally 23 sentences, but Johnson must have added one.
Using google, I was able to pull up a cached version of the article from July 18th, 2014.
Smith mentions that many of the facts in this article were copied from a Senate website article about the inauguration called "Facts, Firsts and Precedents."
So, is it plagiarism? Technically, Ben Johnson's sentence is 70% the same as the original, so yes. But, there are so few words, is it really plagiarism?
One definition of plagiarism is "an act or instance of using or closely imitating the language and thoughts of another author without authorization and the representation of that author's work as one's own, as by not crediting the original author."
By that definition, even the revised sentences could be seen as plagiarism, except that they've cited the original source.
Bottom line, to avoid plagiarism on the Internet it seems like if you're using another source, the best practice is to always cite that original source. Of course, it's also up to the editors to point out a lack of sources, and ask for those from the authors.
Here are some other differences from Johnson's and the revised articles.
14. Harding was the first president to ride to and from his Inauguration in an automobile. (Johnson)
14. Harding was the first president to drive to and from the ceremony. (revised)
15. Coolidge had the first inaugural ceremony broadcast nationally by radio. (Johnson)
15. Coolidge had the first inaugural carried on the airwaves. (revised)
16. Hoover had the first Inaugural ceremony recorded by talking newsreel. (Johnson)
16. Hoover had the first Inaugural ceremony “recorded by talking newsreel,” according to a Senate website. (revised)
18. FDR’s inaugural in 1945 had no parade because of gas rationing and a lumber shortage during World War II. (Johnson)
18. FDR’s inaugural in 1945 had no parade because of gas rationing. (revised)
21. Reagan’s first Inauguration was also the warmest on record with a noon temperature of 55. (Johnson)
21. Reagan’s first Inauguration was also the warmest ever. (revised)
22. Reagans second Inauguration was the coldest on record and took place in the Capitol Rotunda, due to freezing weather. (Johnson)
22. Reagan’s second Inauguration was the coldest. (revised)
24. Obama’s first inauguration holds the record for being the largest attended event in the history of Washington, DC. (Johnson)
24. Obama’s first inauguration holds the record for being the biggest event in the history of Washington, DC. (revised)