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Tainted words

In the wake of Westword’s interview with Phish drummer Jon Fishman (which briefly appeared on the paper’s website on Sept. 3), which was revealed to have been plagiarized from both Relix Magazine and Modern Drummer magazine, we thought we’d share Boulder Weekly’s rules of guidance given out to editors to try and spot plagiarism.

We’ll skip the boring ones and go to the most important ones: 1. Pray. 2. Pray. 3. Pray. 4. Pray.

Frankly, there’s not much else editors can do, other than hire responsible writers and trust them. Rather than berate Westword for failing to adequately fact check (simply Googling the first sentence of the Q-and-A might have revealed the fraud), we feel that this case is indicative of the current state of media, a free-for-all in which overworked newspaper editors rely on poorly paid freelancers instead of full-time staffers to produce content for the Web.

Plagiarism is the fastest way to torpedo a journalism career. In a climate where writers are willing to stake their reputations and professional careers on the few hundred dollars they might get for a story, editors have little time at their disposal to ensure every sentence, thought and turn of phrase a writer submits is original.

Our hearts go out to every other writer at Westword, whose work now bears the taint of one lazy, desperate journalist.

And just so we don’t get into the same trouble as Westword, we should mention that we lifted our “rules” from a 2004 Poynter Institute article.

A sad slide

Disappointing to see CU-Boulder’s latest slip in U.S. News and World Report’s annual rankings of colleges and universities.

CU went from 39th last year to 42nd this year. Seems like just yesterday our hometown campus was ranked 26th. Oh, wait, that wasn’t yesterday; that was in 2000. Then we dropped to 28th, then to 31st. Hung out in the 30s for the rest of the decade until this fall. Ugh.

We can hear the university’s PR team now, dismissing the rankings as unscientific, or too limited in scope, or just plain unflattering.

But this isn’t the Princeton Review, which is definitely an easier target to take shots at when CU is named the number one party school in the nation. This is U.S. News and World Report, which is arguably one of the primary sources your run-of-the-mill high school junior — and her parents — turns to when assessing the quality of a college or university.

So what has gone on in the past decade to cause such a slide in academic quality at CU? Did the magazine change its criteria in a way that disadvantaged us? Was it the scandals of the mid-2000s and the subsequent shift away from academically qualified presidents?

Or was it simply that sucking sound we’ve been hearing as the university’s coffers have been systematically drained by state budget cuts?

After all, you get what you pay for.

Zombies for a cause

Apparently, defending yourself against the walking dead can be good for at-risk youth.

A group calling itself Zombie Defense Tactics (ZDT) and a shop called I Want More Comics in Northglenn has joined forces to host a fundraiser to benefit a new approach to youth empowerment: outlasting zombies.

ZDT is holding classes and seminars that use the concepts of survival and zombies to teach adolescents and teens how to improve their surroundings by learning confidence, critical thinking and physical fitness.

The fundraiser for the effort, a screening of the AMC world premiere of The Walking Dead, a show dealing with survivors of zombie apocalypses, will be held at 7 p.m. on Oct. 16 at Cinebarre in Thornton, located at 10001 Grant St.

So that’s how to get your 15-year-old to clean his room and give up drugs!

Stick your arms out, moan and walk real slow!