Observer reviews, articles contained duplicated sentences

12/18/2012 6:00 AM

12/17/2012 10:50 PM

A freelance writer who wrote theater reviews and articles for the Observer from 2009 until this month repeated paragraphs from other publications in about a third of the articles she wrote for the Observer.

These duplications violate the Observer’s ethical guidelines and contractual agreements with freelancers, which require that writers produce original material.

In the Observer’s review in April 2012 of “Stomp” at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center’s Belk Theater, 13 of 16 sentences were the same as sentences in a review published in MIT’s The Tech in 2001. Among other reviews with duplicated paragraphs: “Death Tax” earlier this month, “Bent” in November and “Bring It On” in April. In some cases, the writer repeated a distinctive phrase from another publication; in others she duplicated multiple paragraphs verbatim.

The writer, Julie Reed Bell, also repeated paragraphs verbatim in three articles in two Observer-owned magazines, SouthPark Magazine and Lake Norman.

Bell apologized and said the duplicated sentences were unintentional. The similarities in the reviews came to the Observer’s attention through a reader who saw one of Bell’s reviews, searched on the Internet for other reviews of the same show and discovered several duplicated paragraphs. The reader called the Observer last week. That call prompted an examination of Bell’s work. She is no longer writing for any Observer publication.

We apologize for these violations of our policies. The Observer aspires to be accurate and fair. We are committed to correcting our mistakes and appreciate readers’ calls in these matters. If you see a mistake or material that is not properly attributed to the original source, please call 704-358-5040 or email us at

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