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KU student newspaper writer resigns over column

Published on -11/22/2013, 2:30 PM

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LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) -- A columnist for the University Daily Kansan has resigned after editors learned the substance of one of his recent columns matched that of an article published earlier in a British newspaper.

The Kansan said Thursday in an editorial that writer Bryenn Bierwirth had used material for a recent column on hospice patients from an article published last year by The Guardian, The Lawrence Journal-World reported (http://bit.ly/1bI4gab ). Bierwirth was an opinion columnist and account executive for the Kansan.

"The Kansan accepts only fact-based reporting, the pursuit of truth in accurate storytelling and a constant standard of integrity in both news and editorial content," Trevor Graff, Kansan editor-in-chief, wrote in the editorial. Graff said the Kansan would review procedures to try and prevent similar problems.

The Kansan is the university's student newspaper and operates independently from the school.

Bierwirth did not appear to have a published phone number.

The Kansan published his column, "Hospice patients provide insights to living a happier life," online Nov. 4 and in print Nov. 5. Bierwirth wrote that he "reached out to a hospice center to learn more about the universal formula for happiness, and asked for guidance from patients there."

Graff said Bierwirth has acknowledged that he didn't visit a hospice center and did not talk to the patients. Graff said the column appears to have been paraphrased from "Top five regrets of the dying," which was published Feb. 1, 2012, on theguardian.com.

Bierwirth's column did not copy The Guardian article verbatim, but much of it appeared to avoid replication just enough so it wouldn't be obvious plagiarism, Graff said.

The issue came to the editors' attention after USA Today College published a story Monday, headlined "5 life lessons I learned from a University of Kansas student journalist." In that article, the writer praises Bierwirth for the hospice column.

Graff said he was contacted a University of Kansas journalism graduate who read the USA Today College story and noticed the similarities between Bierwirth's column and The Guardian article.

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