Dear UmpBumpers,

If you like baseball and you use Facebook, chances are you’ve seen the Bleacher Report’s ad for bloggers. The ad, when clicked upon, brings you here. If you click on MLB, on the front page you’ll see the headline “Ellsbury on the Fast Track” posted by an Alex Potter:

Of course, I had already read this headline. And as it turns out, I’d already read Mr. Potter’s article, too.

That article, which appears on The Bleacher Report under Mr. Potter’s byline, was actually written by Dan Shaughnessy and appeared in yesterday’s Boston Globe. Word for word.

Looking to see if the Bleacher Report had participated in other incidents of plagiarism, I Googled “Bleacher Report” and “plagiarism.” It turns out that BR has—but from the other side, when a writer at the Sporting News copied something from them. The Bleacher Report is “open source,” so “Alex Potter” may just be operating on his own. Nonetheless, you’ve got to think they would have some way of filtering what gets posted on their site—not to would just open them to legal troubles, no? Even if it’s just a spambot…why would 400,000 people a month read a blog that was written by spambots?

And on the blog’s “About” page, they claim that “every contribution bears the stamp of its writer’s personal convictions” (unless of course they bear the stamp of someone else’s unattributed personal convictions) and that “each submission is edited and rated by the Bleacher Report user-base, allowing individual writers to hone their skills and ensuring that the best analysis gets featured on the site.” I guess this means Dan Shaugnessy’s writing is good enough to be featured on a blog. That’s good news for Dan…but I’m sure he wishes it was under his own byline.

Oddly, in a bizarre coincidence, I wrote a column about a year ago that was very similar to one written by Dan Shaughnessy. Only mine was published about a week before Dan’s appeared. I wrote up some tips for a new Red Sox player to welcome J.D. Drew to town, and Shaughnessy wrote up some tips for a new Red Sox player to welcome Daisuke Matsuzaka. After first reading Shaughnessy’s column, I was out for blood—the similarities between the two, I was convinced, were proof enough of Dan’s nefarious intent! (Twirls mustache, or female mustache-equivalent.) But then I realized a) it wasn’t a very original idea and b) the likelihood that someone who grew up reading Shaughnessy’s columns would somehow finagle their way into his brain and think of his ideas before he did is much likelier than the notion that Dan Shaugnessy reads a fishwrap—it’s a term of endearment!—like the Metro, much less lift and idea from it. Coincidences do happen.

I guess that’s just by way of saying, sportswriting ain’t academia, folks, but word-for-word copying is never cool. Why anyone would plagiarize anything in this age of Googlability beats the heck outta me.

A very puzzled,


3 Responses to “The Circle of Life, or Rather Plagiarism [No one is safe! Not even you!]”

  1. Sarah –

    Thanks for alerting us of this incident. I just wanted to let you know that we’ve deleted the infringing articles and place Alex’s account on suspension. Further violations will result in a deletion.

    Plagiarism is something we take very seriously at Bleacher Report. However, due to the open nature of the site it can be very difficult to police and often we must rely on the help of vigilant members of the community or the online sports world at large like you.

    We’re also looking into further means of rooting out plagiarism before it happens, and will use this incident as further motivation to bring added measures into place.


    Dave Nemetz
    Bleacher Report

  2. Coley Ward says:

    Justice is served.

  3. Dave: I understand the nature of the beast and that it might not be possible to scan or vet every piece that comes in, but would it be possible to do spot checking? Perhaps one out of every ten works? That would be enough to discourage it from happening in the first place.

    You can use systems such as Copyscape and/or BitScan to make it much easier if you needed.

    Something to consider, I am glad that this matter has been resolved and applaud you for handling it so swiftly!

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