I don't think there's anything wrong, for example, in finding a useful fact in somebody's article - "the Plastic Duck Company Ltd recently supplied 40,000 plastic ducks to an Arab businessman for use in his several swimming pools" - phoning the Plastic Duck company to ask "is this true?" and then writing it into your own article about swimming pools.
And I've always assumed that bad/lazy journos just fall the wrong side of that. They take the story and use it un-checked and in the worst case, copy the original paragraph more or less word for word.
I have never believed stories that sometimes journos take whole articles and pass them off as their own. I mean, how would you expect to get away with it in a Google-ised world?
I was poleaxed by a feather with my jaw hanging open when I visited a friends' house yesterday and they showed me three articles in a supplement published last week by one of the UK's most highly respected broadsheet newspapers. My friends are both respected and well established specialist journalists writing on the marine industry. Two of the articles were based on articles they had written in the last couple of years, with large chunks lifted more-or-less word for word. The third, written (supposedly) by a well known journalist on that paper was a straight word-for-word copy!!!!!
What the F**K were these journos thinking??
I would not have believed it if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes.
Needless to say, there is some shit heading their way.