Monday, 21 January 2008

Torontoist beef

Updated, a blog about everything T.O., has accused a Toronto Sun reporter of plagiarism over a verbatim paragraph published in a Sunday Sun story.

"The Sun Plagiarizes Torontoist," says the posting by David Topping, comparing content of a story he posted on Friday with content in the Sunday Sun story.

Plagiarism? Judge for yourself, but take the time to read the numerous comments posted in response to the accusation. Torontoist has shot itself in the foot in the eyes of many of its readers.

Quite a few of the comments accuse the blog of dragging a young reporter's reputation through the mud without getting her side of the story and without comment from Sun management.

If were a small, insignificant blog, we wouldn't waste TSF space on the accusation, but it is a widely read blog that has been quoted by the print media, including the Sun.

Reading the backlash on the torontoist site assures TSF we are not alone in having empathy for the young reporter named in the posting.

Like we said, read the verbatim paragraph cited by Torontoist. Not exactly content from the works of Shakespeare.

One of the numerous comments posted says it all about the spirit of the Toronto Sun Family. It was posted by a Sun staffer who has our respect:

"Hey, I just felt the need to comment.

I work for the Sun. When I comment here, I'm not speaking on behalf of the paper. I'm speaking as somebody who works in the media, and who might be able to offer some perspective to temper the reckless, irresponsible posts on this page.

The fact is, sometimes mistakes are made in the editing process in which words, sentences, even paragraphs, are hastily removed when last-minute decisions surrounding space are made. This isn't specific to the Sun. This happens at every newspaper, whether it be the Globe, Post, Star, Sun etc.

Most reporters with at least a few years of experience have been in situations where attribution has been lost in the often-hectic editing process. But because the reporter's name appears at the top of the story, everybody will conclude they're at fault when they might not be.

My point is, make sure this possibility has been ruled out before singling out a reporter by name on a very public forum such as this.

We're dealing with reputations here. The law surrounding the Internet is sort of cloudy these days, but there's no way any newspaper would be able to print an accusation like this without opening themselves up to a lawsuit.

If I, or any reporter, were to ever write a story that essentially convicts somebody based on unproven allegations, regardless of how things may appear, I would be sued and rightfully so.

So, before torontoist starts going out all guns ablazing, perhaps some sort of dialogue should have been initiated in a more private forum with the reporter and editors involved. The one thing I've found about reporting is that I'm constantly surprised by the way things never really are the way they might initially appear.

Apart from that, the fact that somebody here has posted the reporter's personal myspace page is beyond the pale. It's ridiculous this has been allowed to languish on the page still. What's the point of this?

Also, as a disclaimer, a few weeks ago, I wrote about the 'ROM fake bomb.' I used a significant amount of info from torontoist's interview with the accused. I spoke to David on the phone and everything was pleasant and respectful. I gave torontoist proper attribution and badgered the editors to make sure they included the torontoist photo credit under a picture of the accused. (I forget his name.) I like to think that everything worked out to everyone's benefit.

So, we've all worked together in the past, and hopefully we'll be able to work with each other in the future. I'm not talking specifically about the Sun andTorontoist, but about all print and Internet reporters."

Well spoken.

In all fairness, Sun management and the reporter who wrote the Sunday Sun story should also be heard from on and in the Sun.

One of the torontoist comments posted suggested the post be retracted until all sides of the story can be represented.

But once the barn door has been opened . . .

Early Sunday, added the following correction to the posting, leaving the original post and subsequent comments online. TSF has replaced the reporter's name with "reporter."

"Correction: January 21, 2008:
This article implicated (reporter) as necessarily part of the act of plagiarism that took place in the article published under her name in The Sun before such an accusation could be conclusively proven. Such a presumption of her guilt was premature, unfair, and irresponsible, especially for such a serious accusation. Torontoist sincerely apologizes for deeming her guilty until proven innocent; a more detailed explanation and apology are in the comments. We will follow up on this story as more details about the person or persons responsible become available, and we will issue a full apology to (reporter) if it is proven that she was not one of those people."


  1. Mr. Topping makes new media look bad all the time. It's sort of his thing, and what he does well. He's taken a great blog and tarnished it with his childish ego.

  2. I certainly resent your insinuation that only Shakespeare-quality works should be subject to rules or laws concerning plagiarism or copyright infringement. Are you also insinuating that any article in any issue of the Sun has ever met that standard while nothing on Torontoist ever has?