Deseret News accidentally reprints a ‘Snide Remarks’ column; says whoops, our bad

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After all these years, I can finally say I’ve been published in the Deseret News! I never really wanted to say that, but hey, a byline is a byline.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get a byline at first. The Des News inadvertently took part in a wee bit of plagiarism — a situation that has now been rectified with much apologizing, I assure you.

At the paper’s website, they have a feature called LDS Newsline, a blog-like collection of items of particular interest to Mormons, who make up approximately 70 percent of Utah and approximately 100 percent of Deseret News readers.

An occasional feature there at the Newsline is “Mormon Lite”: “Sincere (but occasionally feeble) attempts at LDS humor.” They are submitted by readers. An Erik Hyer of Layton, Utah, submitted this one, about a Mormon-themed chain of restaurants.

About a dozen sharp-eyed readers have e-mailed me in the last 24 hours, alerting me of this article’s existence, and of its uncanny similarity to a “Snide Remarks” column I wrote way back in 2000.

I was alarmed by two things. One, I had no idea my readership overlapped so much with that of the Deseret News. How can I change that?

Two, why was the Des News reprinting my column without attribution?!

This particular chunk of whimsy has been forwarded around the Internet quite a bit as one of those “anonymous” funny things you send to all your friends — which, yes, some people still do in 2007, a good eight years after it stopped being socially acceptable. No doubt that’s where Erik Hyer of Layton got it.

Now, what the Des News should have done with this and all other reader submissions was to ask, “Did you write this?” And if the person says no, he just found it on the Interwebs, then the Des News should do a little googling to see if they can find the true author. That would be my recommendation for the future. As you know, I am an acknowledged expert in matters of journalism ethics.

I e-mailed LDS Online Editor Joe Walker, told him the whole story, and asked that he either remove the piece or give it proper attribution. He replied this morning to say the paper was willing to do whichever I preferred. I said go ahead and leave it up; just set the record straight about its authorship.

Joe was sympathetic, apologetic, and even empathetic: He once received one of his own pieces of writing as an “anonymous” e-mail forward.

So the record has been set straight now, with an explanation and a note put on the original post.

But the best part? The comments people have posted on it. Despite being a very innocuous bit of silly humor, some people still manage to be offended by it. You don’t find it funny, that’s one thing. I don’t care. But OFFENDED by it? Yikes. Good thing I never actually wrote “Snide Remarks” for the Deseret News. The stone-faced blue-hairs who constitute the bulk of the paper’s readership would have stormed the offices and murdered me in a matter of weeks.

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