Error not quite headline news

To the editor,

Last week I wrote a letter critical of the opinion piece “Author [Barbara Ehrenreich] promotes socialist agenda.”

This week I wish to chastise mildly The Northerner for its handling of the discovery that that opinion piece contained ideas and words lifted without acknowledgement from a website. The plagiarism was wrong. I do not defend it.

Nevertheless, I expect it resulted more from the passion of politics than from a lack of ethics.

When people work themselves into a state of hysteria, they often think irrationally and behave badly. I’ve seen it in professors as well as students.

But was this isolated incident worth a front page, headline story? I don’t think so.

More appropriate, I believe, would have been a box on the Viewpoints page containing these or similar words: “The article that appeared in last week’s Northerner titled ‘Author promotes socialist agenda’ contained ideas and words that the writer Trey Orndorff might agree with, but that he in fact did not write. We very much regret that we published the piece.”

A more appropriate and more interesting front page follow-up to Barbara Ehrenreich’s visit to our campus would have been an article about the salary gap between NKU faculty and its supporting staff; or the incredibly low salaries paid to most NKU part-time faculty; or how the extraordinary rise of tuition at NKU (and at state universities nationally) has affected students’ lives.

-Paul Ellis Director, NKU Learning Assistance Program