Do you credit your sources?
January 15, 2018

The first book I wrote was about a local celebrity. He’d gotten second place in the 1982 Boston Marathon, one of the few athletic competitions where people remember who got second place. He’d been in the news many times since, first after a horrific farm accident when he almost lost a leg -- and then, for a long time, as he battled an addiction to prescription painkillers.

So I wasn’t surprised, many years ago, when a middle schooler chose this gentleman to write about in a “hometown hero” homework assignment. I found out about the assignment the same way everyone else in town did. There was a big wall in our little mall covered in posters the students had made. I perused this particular poster with great interest, since it included excerpts from the book I’d written. But there was no mention of me or even the book.

As I surveyed the other posters, with passages “borrowed” from other books -- with nary a nod to those books or their authors -- I wondered who’d been teaching their teachers. Those teachers went to college. Didn’t someone introduce them to the concept of attribution?

It’s important. As a professional photographer who graced us on the show pointed out, you can get in big trouble by “borrowing” celebrity photos to publicize your radio station programming -- just to use one example.

People like to be paid (or at least credited) for their work. You don’t have to take my word for it. But if you don’t, some people might suggest you see them in court.

One other thing. After I wrote this post but before I published it, Dr. Nick Morgan shared a similar sentiment on his blog. Maybe it’s obvious why I felt the need to mention that.