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Ga. editor is fired for lifting columns

ATLANTA -- The associate managing editor of a small Georgia newspaper was fired for plagiarizing articles by a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The Miami Herald, including copying a passage about his mother's battle with cancer.

Chris Cecil, 28, was fired from The Daily Tribune News of Cartersville on Thursday after the Herald pointed out six to eight columns written since March that contained portions from work by Leonard Pitts Jr.

A reader tipped Pitts to the plagiarism.

Charles E. Hurley, publisher of the roughly 8,000-circulation daily, said the newspaper found no evidence of additional plagiarism after reviewing all 17 to 20 columns written by Cecil since he began working at the paper less than a year ago.

Cecil apologized in an interview yesterday with the Associated Press and blamed a mentor who he said reviewed his columns before publication. He said the mentor -- a friend who does not work for the newspaper and whom he would not identify -- edited the columns, advised him on the content, and sometimes added material.

Asked if he ever intentionally plagiarized from the Herald, Cecil said ''that did not take place to my knowledge."

But, he said, ''I have no choice but to face full responsibility because my name was on the columns."

Pitts, who won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 2004, devoted his column yesterday to the incident, saying it reminded him of when his home was burglarized.

''Same sense of violation, same apoplectic disbelief that someone has the testicular fortitude to come into your place and take what is yours," wrote Pitts, who files two columns a week for the Herald from his home in Bowie, Md.

Herald Executive Editor Tom Fiedler praised Hurley for quickly firing Cecil.

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