Sources & plagiarism

This Huffington Post story written on the 26th March was clearly attributed to Reuters, two days later and it appears on the Daily Mail website attributed to ‘Daily Mail Reporter’ without any mention of Reuters or the Huffington Post. Inputting the Huffington Post article into Churnalism.com and it shows that the Mail has cut 77% and pasted 82% with 3247 characters overlapping. Who knows, the Mail may have picked up the same wire copy from Reuters which explains the overlaps, but even if this is the case, why don’t they state that the story was sourced from Reuters?

If it is a case of the Mail ripping off the Huffington Post, it certainly wouldn’t be the first time they have been found guilty of wanton plagiarism.

8 thoughts on “Sources & plagiarism

  1. If I was writing up proper, enforceable, rules and standards for journalism in Britain, covering Newspapers, TV and their websites, I’d include this:
    Bylines: all articles must clearly state who wrote them. Where the article includes any content copied from a newswire service or press release, this must be declared, along with the name of the writer of the original piece if known.

    Clearly, this would have to be enforced by an authority with more legal standing and teeth than the PCC.

    1. @ whowhere

      Apologies, wasn’t sure who I was supposed to attribute it to, most people who email me want to remain anonymous.

  2. How stupid would a journalist have to be these days to believe they can nick content from a web-site without anyone noticing what they have done? Then again we are talking about Daily Mail journalists aren’t we?

  3. This really is very lazy blogging, Kevin. All major media organisations and newspapers pay newswires hefty annual subscription fees so they can use their copy in any way they choose. This is not plagiarism, it is paying for a service. Indeed, the role of the major wire services is to provide reliable, accurate, impartial copy that can be used without attribution. For example, scores of stories appear on the BBC news website every day from PA, Reuters, AP, AFP and other wire services without any attribution. The BBC is not nicking these stories or plagiarising them, it is buying them and as part of the agreement is entitled to choose what, if anything, it attributes. Chances are, you have used one of these stories to make a point on your site but only attributed it to the Beeb, not the agency that provided it. Even the Guardian, which does sometimes recognise agencies, frequently takes copy from PA and others into a staff reporter’s byline without attributing it.

    1. @ Tiz

      The point is here without knowing what the original copy was we don’t know if the Mail is reproducing Reuters copy or simply nicking the Huffington Post interpretation of the copy.

      If you think that major wire services provide ‘reliable, accurate, impartial copy that can be used without attribution’ then you need to read Nick Davies Flat Earth News or take a look at this from Chris Atkins – hoaxing wire agencies to advertise the launch of churnalism.com:

      We set about selling in the garter story, and found it a real uphill battle. The Daily Mail newsdesk listened impatiently to the story, and snorted “Gypsies!?” at us – and then promptly hung up. The Daily Star turned us down, saying “it sounds pretty disgusting” which is something of an honour from the paper which endorsed the EDL that same week. At the end of the day it seemed that, despite having photos of the gorgeous Sinhead pouting in the garter, this wasn’t going to fly. As a last throw of the dice I called up a Midlands-based news agency. I’d heard that it might be easier to get copy churned via newswires, and after pitching the release to the editor he seemed delighted to pump out my press release on the wires. In fact he was so hot for the story he even asked for exclusive rights to interview the fictional couple who created the garter for potential magazine interviews.

      Now that the text had the legitimacy of a news agency, the story flew right back down to London to the same newsdesks who had turned the story down before. Ironically it was the two papers who had rejected it most strongly, the Mail and the Star, who both leapt on it with most gusto once it appeared on the wire. The story first went up on the Daily Mail website, with 40% of the copy lifted from the release. It got a full page in the Daily Star the next day, and thanks to the Mail web story – the most-read UK newspaper site – it flew round the world. The regurgitated copy appeared in the news in Malta, Germany, Croatia, Serbia, Florida, India (a lot), Pakistan, Israel and on several US sites. What really made my day was the Ron Burgundy-esque US TV news report that happily read out my press release to God knows how many Americans over their morning coffee.

      The lesson from the garter story was that newdesks rightly view press releases with impatience and suspicion, whereas if we sent the same copy to a news agency they’d copy it onto the newswires, where it will be received with open arms by the desks. By the time I finished this marathon hoax, I had news agencies calling Edgeseat up, hassling us for more of our wonderful stories.

      A huge percentage of Wire copy are verbatim press releases written entirely by businesses looking for free advertising. Do you think that somehow wire agencies can afford to do the proper journalism that newspaper cannot?

      To be honest, I’m not sure what the point is of responding to you, given that when originally challenged on another post you managed no response because your original argument was so utterly ludicrous that you had no way of defending it – as you will not be able to defend your comment on this post either.

  4. Now, now, Kevin. It was a simple point. The Huffingdon Post report clearly marks it as copy from Reuters at the top of its report. Therefore by following up the story the Mail cannot have been plagiarising it, but simply using wire copy which it has already paid for which it is perfectly entitled to do under its agreement with Reuters. By making such a ludicrous claim of plagiarism when this clearly was not what happened in this case you devalue your website. Very lazy blogging. Must try harder.

  5. When a story appears in a paper it is usually attributed to a reporter, if a reporter keeps writing articles that are not true or full of errors the reporter will either get the sack or people will just ignore future articles.

    The other way to stand up a story is to acknowledge the source of the story. Readers can then go and chek out the source if they want to check the facts.

    When the Mail simply prints stories under the by line Mail Reporter what credibility does that report actually carry?
    Two weeks ago they reproduced the story about the snake that allegedly died of silicone poisoning after biting the breast of a woman who had silicone implants. The story as from a web gossip page with a reputation for featuring made up stories.

    Surely readers have the right to know if information has come from a legitimate news agency or a prank web page.

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