The Drew Sharp plagiarism case from December has re-emerged, thanks to the writer in question addressing it in a new article and calling for Sharp to apologize to the public. This started with a Nov. 20 iSportsWeb piece by David Harns on Miranda Shay McCoy, the quadriplegic who became a Michigan State fan thanks to Connor Cook. A month later, Sharp used most of Harns’ piece without credit or attribution in a Detroit Free Press column. The paper later updated with a sourcing note and a link at the top, offered to pay Harns a contributor’s fee and then doubled it when he decided to donate it to charity, and he said he was satisfied with their actions. Now, though, Harns has written a new piece on how he feels Sharp owes the public an apology:
As soon as I hung up the phone with Drew Sharp two months ago, I knew I should write this article. So, before we get started, I need to apologize that I didn’t write this sooner.
See Drew? That wasn’t so hard to do.
Over 9 weeks have passed since Drew Sharp and I spoke – and I’ve spent a lot of time second-guessing how I handled it then… and how I’ve handled it since. I made a commitment to Sharp that the conversation between he and I would remain private and off the record – and I will honor that; I will not disclose what we discussed.
However, as I have looked back at how this whole thing went down, I find myself unsatisfied with how I handled the public aspect of it. If you are unfamiliar with the situation, I detailed it here. As I said in that article, I am satisfied with how the Detroit Free Press handled it. …
I am, however, not satisfied with how Sharp has handled it.
Put bluntly, I did my best to take the high road during this situation, assuming Drew Sharp would join me there eventually. Clearly, he has not.
So, it’s (past) time to for me to speak up.
Harns goes on to blast Sharp for not apologizing publicly in any of his forums, and writes that he’s particularly offended that Sharp last weekend accused Jim Harbaugh and LeBron James of being “so full of themselves that neither cares about appearances.”
If Drew Sharp was writing a column on Drew Sharp’s handling of this situation, he wouldn’t hold back any punches. He’d call the man out. He’d put him through the wringer. Yet he has been silent; he has not held himself to the same standard to which he holds others.
In his column last weekend, Sharp actually accused Harbaugh and James of being “so full of themselves that neither cares about appearances.” The irony in that statement is shocking.
Here is a man who couldn’t be bothered to interview Miranda McCoy for his story. It would not have been difficult to do – McCoy is easily accessible and more than happy to talk. Sharp was lazy and took the easy way out, googling her name to find the compelling details needed to enhance his story. Sharp made a purposeful decision to use the information that I had reported to fill in the blanks for his article. When he was caught doing so, he lied about it and – in my opinion – has tried to cover his tracks ever since. When his employer made the corrections, he still remained silent. Throughout whatever internal punishment the Detroit Free Press handed out (if any), he remained silent.
Is Sharp so “full of himself” that he doesn’t “care about appearances?”
Harns goes on to say he feels the need to warn others about how Sharp handled this, and that he will no longer turn down interview requests on the subject or offers to discuss it in journalism classes. He says that Sharp’s actions aren’t trustworthy, and that interviewees shouldn’t trust him. Harns concludes by saying Sharp owes McCoy, himself, the site, and the public an apology, and by asking readers to turn these events into a positive by making a donation to Shriner’s of Chicago in honour of McCoy.
From a journalism standpoint, Harns has a strong case, and one both Sharp and the Free Press should consider. Poynter’s 2012 guide on how to handle plagiarism says “In a case of verified fabrication, suspension is the minimal response. Termination is a more fitting punishment” and “As you verify instances of plagiarism or fabrication, announce the findings in an editor’s note, apologize to readers and anyone specifically affected; explain the suspension and ongoing examination of previous work.” Harns has said he’s pleased with the paper’s response, but from the outside, it seems curious that Sharp wasn’t given at least a suspension here. It’s even more curious that he wasn’t told to apologize publicly for this. It’s awfully late to do that now, but a public apology from Sharp could still be valuable here, and it might help in the difficult process of regaining trust from his readers.