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Conservative paper plagiarized

A co-owner of a chain of conservative papers said late last week a writer and an editor were "terminated" after The Times identified instances of plagiarism.

In November, the Illinois Valley Times ran two stories that contained passages from Times stories without proper attribution.

The chain of Illinois papers is run by Local Government Information Services Inc.; the Illinois Valley Times has no local presence, with its writers from elsewhere, including the Philippines.

Dan Proft, one of the company's owners, said plagiarism is against his company's policy.

"(W)e take proper attribution and substantiation of sources and content seriously and instruct our people accordingly," he said in an email late last week. "The hundreds of stories we've done across all our properties speak very clearly to the veracity of my statement of policy."

On Nov. 19, the Illinois Valley Times posted a story to its website about Republican Karen Donnelly's victory over Democrat Brian Towne in the state's attorney race 11 days before.

The story included a series of direct quotes from the two candidates that were from The Times' election night story. The conservative paper attributed none of the quotes to The Times.

Other paragraphs were paraphrased from The Times' story.

In his email, Proft said the lack of attribution was a "major problem and should've been caught by our editor."

In a Nov. 9 story, the Illinois Valley Times reported Republican state representative candidate Jerry Long's victory over Democratic Rep. Andy Skoog. The story contained a direct quote from the director of a think tank based at Southern Illinois University, saying the director made the comment to the Illinois Valley Times in September.

In fact, the director, David Yepsen, had given the quote to The Times in September.

Proft said an editor mistakenly changed "Times" to "Illinois Valley Times," thinking it was a typo.

For both stories, Proft said, it appeared speed was chosen over accuracy.

"These are our mistakes, and we take accountability for them," Proft said in his email. "Both the writer and the editor in question have been terminated as a result of this sloppy work."

Soon after Proft's response to The Times, both stories were corrected to include proper attributions. Editors added notations at the end of the stories indicating the previous problems.

Proft couldn't be reached for a phone interview.

The Illinois Valley Times started in the summer and was printed weekly until the Nov. 8 election, with many of its stories supporting winning Republican state representative candidates Jerry Long and David Welter.

The Times has not come across the print edition since the election, but the company still posts stories online. Proft said the print product continues.

Last winter, Chicago-based Liberty Principles PAC, a conservative group largely bankrolled by Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, created a chain of publications around the state that ultimately included the Illinois Valley Times.

Local Government Information Services took possession over the summer. Proft is chairman of Liberty Principles.

Local Government Information Services appears to have a connection to Chicago-based Locality Labs, which is listed in Local Government's websites' "terms of service."

Locality Labs, or Local Labs, was led by Brian Timpone, who also headed Journatic, which provided stories for the Chicago Tribune's hyperlocal websites. In 2012, Journatic was accused of plagiarism and using false bylines. Journatic was known for hiring Filipino writers, a similarity with at least one of the Illinois Valley Times' reporters.

Journatic's limited liability name is Locality Labs, according to the secretary of state's office's website.

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