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Thursday, January 19, 2012

The HR Function for Ethics of Journalists at Patch

By Aaron S. Robertson

The following is a paper submitted by the author on January 11, 2012 for a class assignment. The author is currently pursuing a master of science in management degree from Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee.


This student, a freelance journalist, examines the ethics policy of Patch Media Corporation, which is most concerned with the issue of plagiarism. He then addresses the policy from a human resources perspective, explaining why such a policy makes for sound business practice.


In the field of journalism, it is imperative that writers and editors, as well as creators of other forms of content when referring to online and digital publications, do not engage in the practice of plagiarism.

In the following paper, this student, a freelance journalist himself for more than four years, and hence well-acquainted with the concept of plagiarism and its serious ramifications, will briefly discuss the ethics policy of Patch Media Corporation, the latest news organization that he has contributed a significant amount of work to. He will then tie that ethics policy in with one of the key functions of Human Resources Management (HRM), explaining why, from a business standpoint, it is important that the company have such a policy in place.

The Ethics Policy of Patch Media Corporation

Patch Media Corporation operates a Web site at . The site is broken down into many smaller sites, with each one serving as a source for news, commentary, and other content tailored to a specific community in the United States. Patch does not yet have a presence in every state, but the addition of new sites to its portfolio of holdings is announced regularly. Patch is exclusively online.

As a news organization that values original and exclusive news stories, commentary, photos, videos, and other content, the bulk of Patch’s ethics policy, not surprisingly, centers on the realm of plagiarism, going into detail on what constitutes it, how to avoid it, and how it can have detrimental consequences for not only the careers of those who engage in it, but also the news organizations they work for.

In its “Patch Freelancer Guide”, Patch Media Corporation makes it clear that plagiarism, in any of its forms, is unacceptable, noting that “Anyone found guilty of plagiarism will face disciplinary action, up to and including termination” (n.d., p. 31).

A Look at Patch’s Ethics Policy from a Human Resources Perspective

Patch’s ethics policy on plagiarism best fits the human resources function known simply as managing the human resource environment. In their definition, Noe, Hollenbeck, Gerhart, and Wright (2010) defines this element of Human Resources Management (HRM) as “Managing internal and external environmental factors,” which, they contend, “…allows employees to make the greatest possible contribution to company productivity and competitiveness” (p. 56).

The basic tenets of this function include monitoring the compliance of an organization’s HRM practices with all applicable laws; seeking to strike the proper balance between satisfying, engaging work for the employee and a customer focus that delivers a quality product; and ensuring that the organization’s HRM practices are properly aligned with its stated business goals and objectives (Noe et. al., 2010, p. 56).

Tying this human resources function into Patch’s ethics policy on plagiarism, Patch’s overall business objective, as with all news organizations, ideally is to provide original and exclusive content that cannot be found elsewhere, which works to its favor by attracting advertisers. This commitment to unique content ensures that readers are constantly returning to their respective community Patch sites for items like news stories, thought-provoking commentary, engaging polls, discussion boards, and exclusive video and still-photo footage. The end result is a one-of-a-kind, honest, high-quality, customer-centered product that readers come to place great amounts of trust in. Simultaneously, this end result, by way of the overall business objective, provides fulfilling and meaningful work for those responsible for producing such content on an ongoing basis. Monitoring the organization’s compliance with applicable law includes keeping a watchful eye on copyright law, which can tie into the act of plagiarism. Plagiarism would simply destroy all of this, eroding the trust placed in Patch by its readers, which in turn can lead to the loss of critical investments by advertisers. This is why it is imperative that Patch have a plagiarism policy in place.

Why it is an Important Policy to Have

Plagiarism can have long-lasting, damaging, and ripple effects. Not only can plagiarism ruin the careers of individual journalists who engage in it, but it also has the potential to harm entire news organizations that publish such ill-gained work, whether the intent to do so is present or not. Loss of a news organization’s credibility can lead to dropped subscriptions and advertiser accounts, for example. When this happens, a seemingly remote, one-time act committed by a rogue individual in the organization now affects the livelihoods of others in the organization, who are relying on such revenue-generating vehicles.


In the preceding paper, this student discussed the ethics policy of Patch Media Corporation, which focuses extensively on plagiarism. He then went on to discuss the policy from a human resources standpoint, explaining why having such a policy in place makes good business sense.


Noe, R. A., Hollenbeck, J. R., Gerhart, B., & Wright P. M. (2010). Human resource management (7th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill/Irwin.

Patch Media Corporation. (n.d.). Patch freelancer guide.

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