Design of Web site copied, BYU admits

Jesse Hyde, staff writer
Deseret News

May 31, 2003

PROVO — Since its inception in 1996, Brigham Young University's student online news service has built a reputation as one of the best in the nation.

That reputation took a hit Friday when administrators announced they would return two national awards because students had copied portions of a Web-building instruction site while redesigning the college's news site this spring.

BYU officials would not release the names of the two students who rebuilt the site — — because they may face disciplinary action from the school. One student has graduated, while the other will return to school this fall but may not be allowed to return to the journalism program.

The two students copied graphics, color design and other elements from, an instructional site that gives tips on Web site design. The copied materials have been removed from the NewsNet site.

Jim Kelly, who helps advise NewsNet students, says the students may not have realized they were taking proprietary information from because that site is a Web-building instruction site. But he said that did not justify their actions.

"What they did is wrong, and we're taking action to ensure we maintain the integrity of our newsroom floor," Kelly said. "We plan to review what happened and assess what controls we can put in place on the Web site to ensure student-produced material is just that."

The returned awards include include a first place award for Web page design in a contest sponsored by the University of Missouri chapter of the Society of Newspaper Design and a second place award for best college newspaper online service sponsored by the national communication trade magazine "Editor & Publisher."

NewsNet has won the first place award in that category from "Editor and Publisher" three times in the last four years.

The two students asked advisers in the spring if they could rebuild the NewsNet site, and once they had finished the site was reviewed by several faculty members, including Kelly.

"None of us had any knowledge any of it had come from," Kelly said. "Considering there are probably 3 billion Web sites out there I don't know how we would have."

The NewsNet staff is now working on an overhaul of the student-news Web site.

Copyright 2003