Daily editor: Article’s plagiarism inexcusable, hurts paper’s credibility

A freelancer for The Minnesota Daily might have plagiarized parts of one of his articles, editors at the Daily discovered in late January.

Adam Mayorga, a former University student, appears to have lifted wording and quotations from the Star Tribune and a University employee’s Web site in his June 16 article about the death of Al Bergstrom, the founder of the Dinkytown restaurant Al’s Breakfast. Mayorga, who wrote for the Daily in the spring and summer of 2003, did not return repeated calls from the Daily.

In his article, “Founder of Dinkytown’s Al’s Breakfast dies at 97,” Mayorga evidently copied a portion of Jenny Allan’s Web site without citing it. Allan, a University graduate and editor for the physics department, maintains a Web site called the Unofficial Dining Guide that contains an essay about Al’s Breakfast.

Mayorga quoted part of the essay as if Allan had talked to Mayorga in person without mentioning the Web site. He also used key words and phrases from another part of the essay without crediting Allan’s Web page.

Allan notified the Daily of the alleged plagiarism in a June 23 e-mail, in which she detailed specific points of similarity between her Web site and Mayorga’s article. She also pointed out the article’s similarities with a June 11 Star Tribune article about Bergstrom’s death.

In his article, Mayorga appears to have rewritten a paragraph from the Star Tribune’s article, which contained unique phrases such as “short-order cook techniques” and “two-pot poached eggs.”

Mayorga also quoted Doug Grina, co-owner of Al’s Breakfast, with a remark identical to one that ran in the Star Tribune. Grina said he doesn’t remember speaking with the Daily about Bergstrom’s death.

“I don’t remember talking to anyone,” Grina said last week.

Daily Editor in Chief Shane Hoefer said he regretted Mayorga’s apparent plagiarism, which he said could damage the paper’s credibility with readers.

“It’s embarrassing,” Hoefer said. “We owe our readers an apology. Readers depend on us to be accurate in our storytelling. Plagiarism is inexcusable, and vitally damages the trust relationship between readers and their newspaper.”

Mayorga had written several previous articles for the Daily without incident. A limited investigation into those articles has revealed no evidence of further plagiarism.

Hoefer also accounted for the Daily’s late response to Allan’s letter, which Allan sent to an e-mail account at the Daily. While the account still existed and was listed on the newspaper’s Web site, the Daily’s current staff was unaware of its existence until January, Hoefer said.

“Our predecessors failed to make us aware of that e-mail account,” he said.

After its discovery, Daily employees reviewed the account’s contents, found Allan’s letter and began an investigation into the plagiarism claim.