Weird as it seems, plagiarism still exists.
After all, this is the age of the internet, where everything is available at our fingertips. Stealing written material from another source and presenting it as your own work takes an incredible amount of arrogance when it can so easily be brought to light with a Google search.
Even more arrogant: plagiarizing the work of a writer you employ for the publication you own, then presenting it as your own for a separate outlet that compensates you for the work you do.
And yet, in an astounding display of hubris, that’s exactly what English writer Jim Edwards has done.
Edwards is one of the owners of the news site MMA Latest News, where they employ a small staff to handle the burden of posting news items circulating in the MMA world.
In addition to his own site, Edwards is a freelance writer for FloCombat and European outlets Metro, The Mirror and IndyStar.
The MMA Latest News staff is paid a low per-click rate that only triggers when a story is clicked more than 1,000 times. Most stories on the site rarely come close to that mark, which means most of the work is done for free.
It’s a good system for Edwards, because he gets most of the content for free and only has to pay a tiny rate if a story hits gold. For young writers looking to get a foothold in the journalism world, it provides a platform for their work and help them hone their writing chops. Plenty of current full-time writers started out the same way.
But then, this: Our reporting shows Edwards has plagiarized the work of those same writers for use in his own paid stories at other outlets.
One example came on August 21, 2016. MMA Latest News writer Nick Dwyer published this story on Nate Diaz’s admission of cannabidioil usage after his fight with Conor McGregor. It contained the following passage:
So what is CBD oil? Also known as Cannabidiol, it is a compound in Marijuana that is being used more and more during recovery amongst athletes or simply people with active lifestyles. According to LeafScience.com, cannabis breeders can separate strains of marijuana containing high levels of CBD with almost zero levels of THC, meaning CBD is not psychoactive. Amongst other benefits, CBD is used to combat inflammatory disorders, reduce nausea and vomiting and to combat neurodegenerative disorders. It’s essentially marijuana without the psychoactivity, paranoia, or tiredness associated with THC.
Five hours later, the same passage–minus a reference to the source for the information which was properly referenced by Dwyer-appeared in a story written by Edwards on FloCombat.
CBD oil, or Cannabidiol as it also known, is a compound found in Marijuana that is being used more and more during recovery amongst athletes or people with active lifestyles.
Amongst other benefits, CBD is used to combat inflammatory disorders, reduce nausea and vomiting and to combat neurodegenerative disorders. It’s essentially marijuana without the psychoactivity, paranoia, or tiredness associated with THC.
As you can see, Edwards presented work to FloCombat for publication that was directly stolen from a writer at the publication he runs.
Even if Edwards were the author of the story at MMA Latest News, he would have been acting unethically in presenting the copied passages for inclusion in work he is paid for at another outlet. A publisher generally owns the right to work that it produces, especially when the writer has been compensated for the work. In this case, Edwards didn’t even write the original material.
Dwyer told MMA Media Watch that he alone wrote the story, and there was no collaboration with Edwards. He was unaware of the plagiarism until he saw the story published on FloCombat.
Dwyer wasn’t happy when he saw Edwards’ theft of his writing on FloCombat. But as MMA Latest News was his only paid writing role at the time, and the only channel he had for securing interviews to help with his stories, he opted to stay quiet. Dwyer has earned so little (roughly $2) during his time working for Edwards that he hasn’t bothered to collect. He has since moved to a paying contract role with Everlast.
Were this to happen at an outlet following proper journalistic procedures, Edwards would be fired immediately upon discovery of the theft. It is certainly possible that FloCombat’s senior editor Duane Finley and the FloSports editorial operation simply did not know Edwards gave them copy he did not write. After all, without a documented history of Edwards plagiarizing the work of others, FloSports would have no reason to dig into his copy.
Perhaps Edwards believes he owns Dwyer’s work at MMA Latest News and therefore was free to copy as he wished. But even if that were the case (and it isn’t), we can’t imagine FloSports would be happy about paying for work Edwards did not create that already appeared in a different publication.
Though he no longer presents himself as a journalist on his Twitter profile (it was included before being removed some time ago, along with the more recent removal of the outlets he contributes to), he is still hired and paid to produce for media outlets presenting themselves as news operations. He is credentialed as a media member by the UFC just as other outlets with editorial standards are credentialed, and therefore is grouped together with professionals who follow the ethics of journalism.
And yet he is operating in an unethical manner inconsistent with the values of the publications he works for, or at least the values they should have in place, and he is helping to cement the amateur reputation journalists in the sport are saddled with by readers.
Edwards did not respond to an emailed request for comment on Monday prior to the publication of this story. He posted earlier on Monday that he was no longer writing for FloCombat, but did not specify why.
A representative for FloSports told MMA Media Watch that Edwards was let go earlier on Monday prior to publication of this story. The representative said that “some things with Jim had been off in the past few weeks” and that Edwards was let go as a result.
FloCombat senior editor Duane Finley provided this comment to MMA Media Watch.
“I certainly didn’t know about this infraction but that falls on Mr. Edwards. His agreement with FloCombat was to provide unique and balanced content. We’ve since parted ways, and learning of this is unfortunate,” Finley said. “We will take appropriate measures to prevent these types of issues in the future.”
The FloSports representative has looped back to tell us Edwards and FloSports mutually parted ways and that he wasn’t let go. The representative said they were not fully briefed on the situation and that “let go” did not accurately reflect the situation.
Edwards claimed on Reddit that he left the company on his own, however, which sounds different than a mutual parting of ways.