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Op-Ed Publisher’s Corner: Journalistic Thievery-Whittier Daily News Continues Unethical Publishing Practices

By Brian Hews

In today’s cyber world, students “turn in” their written essays and papers to an internet service called Turn-It-In. The service checks the paper against a massive database of essays and papers for any plagiarism and gives a “percentage of plagiarism score.” A low score indicates a low level of plagiarism.

If the Whittier Daily News uploaded the last two articles it published to Turn-It-In pertaining to the Central Basin Municipal Water District, they would have received the highest plagiarism score possible, F+.

The reason is that writer Mike Sprague basically cut and pasted Hews Media Group-Community News’ CBMWD stories and put his name on it. He did not even have the decency to attribute the story.

Did we just call someone out? We sure did because we are sick and tired of news outlets stealing our stories.

It seems that the journalistic standard of attribution is dead when it comes to Los Angeles County daily and weekly newspapers, and online-only news outlets.

Attribution is defined as one news outlet “A” giving credit to another news outlet “B” for a story “B” wrote and published first. “B” did all the work, found the public records, and wrote the story, so they should get some credit from “A” for working to break the story.

This has been the journalistic standard since newspapers began, but has seemingly gone away with the growth of internet news outlets and the “urgency” to show readers that “we broke the story first” even if it is not true.

Since January of this year, we have been exposing corruption at every level at the CBMWD. This has come from extensive research, several public records requests, and the confirmation of the stories with our sources.

We have been threatened with libel suits by two high-powered law firms and physically threatened by people we exposed. We also confirmed that one CBMWD Director retained an attorney-at the water agency’s expense-for the express purpose of researching whether they could personally sue HMG-CN.

In the past three weeks, we broke three exclusive stories about CBMWD; one story about Director Bob Apodaca’s sexual harassment charges, one about Gil Cedillo, Jr. receiving $22,000 taxpayer dollars to fund his college tuition and revealing he earned $112, 000 per year, and the last about Cedillo Jr. being released by CBMWD.

Several TV and radio news outlets, NBC, KTLK’s David Cruz, and KFI’s John and Ken attributed HMG-CN for breaking the stories.  We love working with ethical news outlets here in Southern California and around the country for that matter.

Heck, we are a “tiny” community newspaper surrounded by a sea of massive media giants.  We get that.  We also “get” that sometimes we need to stand up for ourselves and take on the so-called “major dailies.”

Our efforts to expose Bob Apodaca’s bizarre personal and behind the scenes dealings at the CBMWD went viral around the nation online on July 3 and in print two days later on July 5.

The Gil Cedillo Jr. story went online the morning of July 18, in print July 19.  It spread like the mountain wildfire up and down news rooms here in California.

Yet WDN Publisher Ron Hasse, Senior Editor Steve Hunt, and Sprague unethically and shockingly “published” the same stories in print and online without attribution, both on the Saturdays following our Friday publication.

Below is a screenshot of our story on the Apodaca harassment put online July 3, in print July 5. Below that is a screenshot of the WDN’s posting July 5, in print July 6, no attribution was given.

 

Apodaca harassment story posted on July 3.

HMG-CN Apodaca harassment story posted online July 3, in print July 5.

Apodaca story published in print and online at the WDN, date is July 5, two days after HMG-CN published online and one day after publishing in print.

WDN Apodaca story published in print and online by  July 5, two days after HMG-CN published online and one day after publishing in print. No attribution was given.

 Link to WDN Apodace story click here.

Below, the HMG-CN Cedillo Jr. story online July 18, in print July 19, with another screenshot showing WDN “breaking” the same story online July 19, in print July 20.

 

Picture 171

HMG-CN Cedillo Jr. story published online July 18, in print July 19.

Cediillo Jr. story by WDN posted July 19, in print Jul 20, 2 days after HMG-CN posted and printed the story.

WDN Cedillo Jr. story posted online July 19, in print Jul 20, 2 days after HMG-CN posted and printed the story. Again no attribution was given.

Link to WDN Cedillo Jr. story click here.

 

Worse, parts of the two stories were almost verbatim to HMG-CN’s.

HMG-CN called the WDN after they published the Apodaca story July 6 without attribution. Hasse was “too busy to talk.” Senior Editor Steve Hunt said “I will take a look at your story and get back to you,” he never did. Sprague never called back either. Several emails were also sent.

The week we broke the Cedillo Jr. story when the WDN once again stole the story and published it without proper attribution, KFI’s John and Ken picked the Cedillo Jr. story up and talked for one hour on the subject. It was also the lead news story on KFI up until midnight, so there was a digital and paper trail.

We don’t like to have our hard investigative work stolen from us by any media outlet, period.

We call it the way we see it.

Otis Chandler would have loved us “down here” in the trenches, and to Hasse, Hunt, and Sprague, shame on you and your unethical practices.

Yep. We call it like it is….just ask Assessor John Noguez.

 

 

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17 Comments on "Op-Ed Publisher’s Corner: Journalistic Thievery-Whittier Daily News Continues Unethical Publishing Practices"

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Brian L.
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Just checking something

Brian L.
Guest
Why did you not print my comment calling you out on our phone call? Is it because you blatantly lied? Or is it because your “integrity” was called into question? Did you not assure me you would be more aggressive in your editing of comments? Did you not apologize for allowing the malicious comments that included names of individuals and their families? Did you not inform me you had a breaking story after which you printed a slanderous statement including the name of “victim”? Add to that, the statement was a bold face lie? Once again I ask …How can… Read more »
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Guest

Hello, just wanted to say, I liked this blog post.
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gilman
Guest

Sprague is not the problem,it is the newspaper and the folks running it. The quality of Sprague’s reporting, or more accurately lack of reporting, is the new norm under Hunt. Sad to see a once great newspaper turned into little more than fish wrap.

Council Appointee - Whittier
Guest
Council Appointee - Whittier

Mike Sprague, you are a joke in the real world of reporters. I don’t understand how you have managed to keep your job all these years.
Mike, stop your story robbing & cheating! Use your own brain, if you still have one.
MAN-UP Mr. Sprague!

Harvey Levin
Guest
Mike Sprague is an embarrassment who must work for cheap in order for the Whittier Daily News to keep him around. A recent story about Central Basin had General Manager Tony Perez referred to as Tony Miller. What?? Because of his relationship with Art Aguilar he never attempted to expose all the crap swirling around that cesspool we all know as Central Basin. I know for a fact that Congresswoman Grace Napolitano thinks Sprague is a jackass who is absolutely incompetent. No one should be surprised that he steals his stories from REAL newspapers like the Los Cerritos Community News.… Read more »
El Oso
Guest

Mike Sprague is a very lazy and sloppy reporter. His weekly column is simply a patchwork of press releases. He doesn’t do much investigating, and recently identified the wrong councilman named “Joe” of taking bribes from a marijuana dispensary. The Whittier Daily News should have fired him a long time ago for incompetence. If not, then do it to simply improve the quality of your paper. You can’t get much worse!

USC Journalism Student
Guest
USC Journalism Student

I applaud you for taking a stand against Journalistic thieves.

We ALL need to make sure that JOURNALISTS are held to the HIGHEST degrees of professionalism.

I have NO PROBLEM when one newspaper stands up and speaks out when they have had their work lifted by another newspaper.

As a student at USC we are taught about ethics in the newsroom and to never steal another reporters work. It is sad this this practice is ALIVE and WELL today at the Whittier Daily Newspaper.

Thanks for taking a stand.