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May 30, 2006

An apology to our readers

In two separate articles written for The Tattoo this year, a 16-year-old New Jersey teen, Yaffa Fredrick, plagiarized large sections from pieces that appeared in The Jewish Week, which is based in New York City.

We have removed the offending articles as well as the only other story that Ms. Fredrick submitted to us, which we could no longer trust was her own work.

This matter came to our attention on May 16, when a reader alerted us to a problem with one of Ms. Fredrick's stories.

We investigated and quickly recognized that Ms. Fredrick had stolen hefty portions of a review of the movie “Munich” by writer Liel Leibovitz and from another of his stories, a March 16 piece about reggae star Matisyahu.

The “Munich” review, which Ms. Fredrick submitted to The Tattoo on Jan. 7, copied extensively from Mr. Leibovitz’s own Jan. 5th review.

Ms. Fredrick’s submitted an article on Matisyahu several weeks after Mr. Leibovitz’s appeared in print.

Within an hour of learning about the plagiarism, we removed Ms. Fredrick’s work from The Tattoo’s website.

The next day, we informed Mr. Leibovitz of the plagiarism. He, in turn, made sure that his editor learned of it as well.

Ms. Fredrick initially denied wrongdoing, then called it “possibly a big unintentional mistake,” then grudgingly admitted to the plagiarism.

Her chief concern, however, was to keep her theft private and to continue writing for The Jewish Week’s own teen section, Fresh Ink.

We have dismissed her from The Tattoo.

In the days since, Ms. Fredrick has apologized for her plagiarism, calling it "egregious, foolish and dishonest" and vowing to reform. We hope she will.

Mr. Leibovitz has been gracious in dealing with this matter. We can attest to his thoughtfulness, fairness and journalistic integrity.

But we still owe him a public apology for allowing this to happen.

Mr. Leibovitz, we are deeply sorry that we unwittingly played a part in the theft of your work.

The Jewish Week itself has taken appropriate steps to punish Ms. Fredrick. In doing so, it upheld the integrity of our profession.

To our readers, we can only say that it shouldn’t have happened. We will try harder to ensure that The Tattoo’s long record of honest journalism isn’t marred again.

That it’s happened to far larger newspapers than The Tattoo doesn’t make it less painful for us.

If anyone has any questions about anything related to this matter, please contact us. We will endeavor to answer in as much detail as possible.

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