Congressional candidate Novak loses blog for alleged plagiarism

Hartford - Daria Novak, a 2nd Congressional District Republican candidate with tea party credentials, had her blogging privileges on a news website revoked Wednesday over allegations of plagiarism.

The AOL-owned local news site, Patch, announced late Wednesday that it had suspended Novak from blogging in its "Local Voices" section after finding what the website editors deemed to be plagiarism in at least two of her seven blog posts.

Entire paragraphs of her work appeared to have been lifted almost word for word without attribution from a conservative website and The Washington Times, according to the website editors.

Patch says readers alerted its editors to the similarities. "Because these two blogs did not meet Patch's standards for publication, Patch has taken down all seven blogs posted by Ms. Novak," the site announced.

The blog posts were headlined "Proof Your Faith Is Under Attack From Washington" and "China Builds Power Plants While President Obama Shuts Ours Down."

Novak, 55, of Madison is one of two Republicans vying to challenge Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney in November.

In an interview Thursday with The Day, Novak did not deny incorporating passages from other writers into her blog posts, but claimed she initially was discouraged by Patch editors from cluttering her posts with lengthy source citations.

Instead, she added a sentence inviting readers to contact her for a list of the relevant citations. But according to Novak, a senior Patch editor found this method unsatisfactory and gave her a warning about the need for full attribution.

Novak said she had no prior experience at blogging and contributed to the website for free. Her blog appeared on Patch sites throughout the 2nd District and had a political focus.

Novak won the endorsement of the state Republican Party during her 2010 bid for Courtney's seat, but finished second in that year's GOP primary behind former newscaster Janet Peckinpaugh.

Novak's Republican rival this year is state Rep. Chris Coutu of Norwich. Coutu is in South Carolina until April 24 for U.S. National Guard training, missing part of this year's General Assembly session. His campaign so far has received nine endorsements from local Republican town committees. Novak has gotten two.

Patch's regional editor, Elissa Bass, who is a former editor at The Day, declined Thursday to comment on Novak's specific claims, but she said the organization stands by its published account of what happened.

That account includes text from a recent email Novak sent to Patch in which Novak concedes, "when I read material from multiple sources, and have multiple people emailing me without attributions, I assume the material was in the public domain."

News organizations generally forbid writers from lifting material published online without citing the source.

A spokesman for the Coutu campaign said they were unaware of the plagiarism allegations until Patch's announcement. "Republicans across the district are going to have to make up their minds about what this means for Daria," Chris Covucci, Coutu's campaign manager, said Thursday.

Novak said her campaign is building up support and doesn't believe the Patch incident will derail things. She said she never before has been accused of plagiarism.

A native of Westport, Novak worked for the U.S. State Department in the 1980s and founded a consulting business, ERUdyne, now run by her sister and campaign manager, Suzanne Novak.

She plans to continue blogging on her campaign website. "I hope the Patch readers will come over and continue to follow me there," Novak said.

j.reindl@theday.com

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