Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Nothing changes

Nick Martin, a Winnipeg Free Press blogger, recalls his days at the Woodstock Sentinel-Review in the 1970s when reporters rewrote London Free Press copy and called it their own.

And radio stations read, verbatim, copy from their local newspapers while trying not to ruffle the papers while on air.

"I’ve been waiting almost 38 years for an editor to tell readers that other media steal our stories and pass them off as their own work," he writes.

"As editor Margo Goodhand wrote Saturday, the area’s largest newspaper is the main source of information — other media plagiarize that information and present it as their own work."

Martin tells some interesting stories, which will mostly ring true to news vets, but scalping the words of the competition is probably as old as journalism itself.

Is blatant scalping ethical? No. Preventable? No. Do newspaper readers, radio listeners and television viewers care? No.

As for the cutting and pasting going on thanks to the Internet, don't get us started. It has become a friggin' free-for-all, especially in sparsely populated newsrooms desperate to fill their online and print news slots.

But if you are going to steal a story, try to be creative.

The trick is to rewrite until all evidence of a story's origin has been removed and, if you have time, get an original quote or two.

It is called covering your asses for the sake of credibility with readers, listeners and viewers.

In our books, a complete rewrite and additional material is not plagiarizing a story. Using content and quotes from another source without revision, that is plagiarism.

1 comment:

  1. CFRA in Ottawa does it all the time. They regularly scalp stories from the Sun and Citizen, either from the actual papers or their websites, including exclusives and enterprise pieces with quotes, and then not only parrot the copy without credit, they often put them up on their website with a radio staffer's byline as though they actually went out and did some reporting.