KUNM Responds to Plagiarism Allegation

Albuquerque-based public radio station KUNM released a statement today following an SFR report earlier this week about a plagiarism scandal at the station.

On Wednesday, SFR reported about instances of alleged plagiarism in the station's news department that have since prompted the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to conduct a yet-to-be-released report on the matter. One former KUNM reporter told SFR that he quit the station last month because he felt the situation wasn't being properly addressed.

"KUNM was in the news this week due to an accusation of plagiarism, and our integrity was questioned," KUNM News Director Elaine Baumgartel writes in the statement. "We're disheartened. But we've taken this situation as an opportunity to re-examine our ethical practices."

The post says that the radio station took immediate action after receiving the allegations in November 2013.

"We reacted as any newsroom concerned about ethical behavior would," Baumgartel writes. "We put a hold on projects until expectations were clear. We scoured content for plagiarized material. We made corrections and added attribution where it was needed."

The station also put its employees through an online ethics course from Poynter and hired University of New Mexico journalism instructor (and sometimes SFR contributor) Gwyneth Doland to "go over ethical scenarios and appropriate responses."

Baumgartel adds that the station "can't discuss everything we did with you" because as a part of the University of New Mexico, KUNM must follow the university's guidelines that protect employee confidentiality.

"We take journalism ethics and allegations of misconduct very seriously," Baumgartel writes. "Everyone in our newsroom is sorry this happened. And we are making sure it won't happen again."

Yet all this wasn't enough for former KUNM reporter Tristan Ahtone, who wrote a mass email to KUNM staffers in February detailing three examples of plagiarism at the station that occurred between April 2013 and November 2013.

"I refuse to take part in this ethics training course," he wrote. "It's clear that KUNM will not enforce the journalism values that will be reinforced or taught anyway, and will continue to cover up the stations own involvement with ongoing ethics violations."

Ahtone, who first started at KUNM in 2012, had twice applied for the station's news director job unsuccessfully. He left the station in March.

Santa Fe Reporter

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