Tag Archives: plagiarism

MediaGuardian: Independent editor to rule on Johann Hari plagiarism claims

The Independent’s internal investigation into plagiarism accusations levelled at columnist Johann Hari is now finished and a decision is expected from editor Chris Blackhurst, the Guardian reports.

The investigation was conducted by Andreas Whittam Smith, one of the founders of the newspaper.

Those close to the newspaper say that Whittam Smith, the founding editor of the Independent, was inclined to be lenient as he completed his deliberations, but it is unclear whether Blackhurst will reach the same conclusion. A decision from the newspaper’s new editor is expected shortly.

Read the full MediaGuardian report at this link.

More from Journalism.co.uk on the Johann Hari plagiarism accusations:


Mea culpa? Johann Hari apologises for ‘error of judgement’

‘Is there a better way of doing this?’: Johann Hari responds to plagiarism accusations


Orwell Prize delays ‘unanimous’ Johann Hari decision

Johann Hari suspended pending investigation

Orwell Prize Council begins investigation into Johann Hari

Media Standards Trust calls for inquiry into Johann Hari’s Orwell Prize

Mea culpa? Johann Hari apologises for ‘error of judgement’

After yesterday’s storm, this morning’s calmer weather brings with it some reflection from Johann Hari about the scandal he has found himself caught up in.

Writing in today’s Independent, Hari has apologised for an “error of judgement” after being shown to have passed off unattributed material from elsewhere as direct interview quotes.

I did not and never have taken words from another context and twisted them to mean something different – I only ever substituted clearer expressions of the same sentiment, so the reader knew what the subject thinks in the most comprehensible possible words.

The front-page headline for his piece seems to have been changed at the 11th hour from “What I think about the attacks on my professional integrity” to “The lessons I must draw from these attacks on my journalism”.

Both have a certain amount of fighting talk about them. The second is softer around the edges and closer to Hari’s piece in the paper, which is an awkward mix of mea culpa and mea innocentia.

I don’t want to harp on about this. I’m not out to get Johann Hari, I don’t want to see him bullied or hounded, and some of yesterday’s frenzy left a sour taste in my mouth. But seeing people on Twitter call his piece in this morning’s paper “gracious” and “exemplary” and so on sticks in the craw a bit.

Hari is a very intelligent guy, intelligent enough for it not to wash that he was innocently doing something for the benefit of the reader. A “gracious” and “exemplary” response would be an honest one, which I don’t think this is. An honest response would admit that he knew then what he was doing was wrong, rather than sees now that it was. An honest response would admit that part of the reason he did it was to improve his own journalism. To make out that it was all about the reader is disingenuous, I think.

Commenting on my previous blog post on this, Guardian technology correspondent Charles Arthur disagreed with my claim that Hari was being disingenuous in his response. He says instead that a lack of proper journalism training is to blame. Arthur claims that the route up through King’s College, Cambridge to the New Statesman and on, didn’t give Hari the journalistic nous to know that what he was doing was wrong or the arsenal to defend himself against the allegations that followed.

It may be the case that Hari’s sentiments in the paper today are genuine, and bear out Arthur’s assessment that he didn’t know any better, but I don’t buy it. This was not about the readers. It does not do a disservice to the reader to give them an unpolished thought, the disservice is giving them one thing and telling them it’s another, and you don’t need to pass your NCTJs or come up the ranks of a local paper to know that.

Of course, phone hacking is worse, inventing quotes from scratch is worse, and there are probably plenty of other things that happen in our industry that are worse. But we don’t need to judge one thing by another, as if the worse of the two mitigated the lesser. Those other bad practices just serve to show that the reaction to this situation was way out of proportion. As James Ball pointed out in a discussion with me this morning, the fact of this 2003 Private Eye piece about Hari adequately demonstrates the amplifying power of Twitter today.

This is the last thing I’ll write about the issue, I hope, but I do think it merits further discussion. It’s a shame that the debate about the practice itself has been somewhat hijacked and deformed by the brouhaha on Twitter. I know these things aren’t black or white, and that Johann Hari is no Jayson Blair. There are shades of grey in between. And I don’t want to see a campaigning writer and someone who is a force for good in journalism end up on the scrap heap over something like this. But I’m just not sure that today’s defence stands up. As Samira Shackle notes in her New Statesman post today, Hari still hasn’t addressed the charge of lifting material from other interviews as well as from the writings of his subjects.

I’m sure that over the coming months Hari will vie with his Independent colleague Robert Fisk for the dubious honour of most-scrutinised journalist, and I’m equally sure they won’t find any new copy and paste jobs. The level of coverage of this has been sufficient to teach anyone a lesson.

It remains to be seen whether an inquiry into his 2008 Orwell Prize will find that his submissions are affected.

UPDATE: A discussion on Twitter between myself and the Guardian’s Charles Arthur followed this post after he commented on it below. You can see the whole thing at this link, starting at the bottom of the page. The first tweet should start “Interesting comment from @charlesarthur…” and the last “@charlesarthur @jeremyduns Sobering. Threatening to escalate…” – if this is no longer displaying properly please let me know: joelmgunter@gmail.com.

Image by internets_dairy on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

‘Is there a better way of doing this?’: Johann Hari responds to plagiarism accusations

Independent columnist and interviewer Johann Hari has come under fire over the past week for so-called copy and paste journalism.

First the DSG blog pointed out the remarkable similarities between Hari’s 2004 interview with Tony Negri and Negri’s own 2003 book, Negri on Negri. Then Brian Whelan, an editor at Yahoo! Ireland, did a little more digging around and unearthed more similarities. Whelan took a close look at Hari’s interview with Gideon Levy, published in the Independent last year, and found that chunks of it had been lifted from both Levy’s own writing and interviews he gave to other journalists.

It’s important to note the copied passages are not cited as quotes from their original source, which would be perfectly acceptable, but rather passed off as having been said in Hari’s own interview, complete with such dramatic additions as: “With a shake of the head, he says…” and “After saying this, he falls silent, and we stare at each other for a while. Then he says, in a quieter voice…”

What is perhaps more surprising than the evidence that the Independent’s star interviewer has been lifting quotes from elsewhere to neaten up his work, is a blog post from Hari last night defending the practice.

The post, titled “interview etiquette”, explains that he occasionally replaces quotes from an interview with quotes from elsewhere in which the subject has better expressed the same idea.

So occasionally, at the point in the interview where the subject has expressed an idea, I’ve quoted the idea as they expressed it in writing, rather than how they expressed it in speech. It’s a way of making sure the reader understands the point that (say) Gideon Levy wants to make as clearly as possible, while retaining the directness of the interview. Since my interviews are intellectual portraits that I hope explain how a person thinks, it seemed the most thorough way of doing it.

Hari claims to be bemused that a blogger considers this plagiarism, and says that he has called round “a few other interviewers for British newspapers” who told him that they do the same thing from time to time.

But Hari’s defence that he would expect somebody interviewing him about Martin Amis to replace something like: “Um, I think, you know, he got the figures for, uh, how many Muslims there are in Europe upside down” with something he’d written “more cogently about him a month before” is disingenuous. No journalist is expected to quote so verbatim as to include ums, uhs, and you knows. Features would be a complete mess. But they should, without doubt, be expected to not pass off other material as having been said in their interview.

Hari’s simplistic take on the practice is also disingenuous, and I suspect he knows it. There are all sorts of problems associated with this kind of fudging, not least the question of whether his subjects can be confident of having any control over an interview, or whether his editors and readers will be able to trust what they get given. And once misrepresenting what was said a little bit, where do you stop?

It should be acknowledged that all journalists pick and choose quotes from an interview as they see fit, eschewing thousands of words for a few quotes sometimes, and this can carry with it its own forms of misrepresentation. There is a fine, but important line, however, between that and falsifying what was said in an interview.

Hari finishes his post by saying that he is “open to suggestions from anyone who thinks there’s a better way of doing this”.

I have one: ask the right questions, get the answers you are looking for if possible, or if not work with what you’ve got. If your subject has expressed an idea more cogently elsewhere, point your readers in that direction and let them decide for themselves. If they um and ar, cut out the umms and arrs. No one is going to write an accusatory blog post about you doing that.

Hari’s actions aren’t a far cry from the recent case of Brian Walski, who was fired from his job as a staff photographer on the LA Times for filing a composite image. There were few objections to Walski’s sacking, and none from the man himself who issued a contrite apology. Alterations and composites are unacceptable in professional photojournalism, why should it be any different with the written word?

Image by internets_dairy on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

Columbia Journalism Review: The Counter-Plagiarism Handbook

The excellent Craig Silverman has written a short guide to avoiding and detecting plagiarism and fabrication for the Columbia Journalism Review. To his knowledge no-one has yet written a “definitive guide,” he says.

Among the tips:

Use a different font and text color for your research files. This will help you instantly recognize other people’s words when you paste them into your story. (Many people have suggested this over the years. It works.)

The Counter-Plagiarism Handbook at this link…

(via StinkyJournalism.org)

Babel @ Bedlam: Plagiarism, the digital age and why it’s not just the NY Times

Following the resignation of New York Times reporter Zachery Kouwe over allegations of plagiarism, Dee Jackson looks at “the swift rise of uncredited appropriation of original material in our global digital age” and recent goings-on in the Spanish media world.

As the loud slamming of stable doors at the NYT shows, policing this piracy is practically impossible. It also highlights the frustrating impotence of individual originators in the face of powerful media organisations.

Full post at this link…

NY Times reporter resigns following plagiarism accusations

The New York Times reports that the reporter accused of plagiarising parts of articles from rival titles has resigned.

Wall Street Journal managing editor, Robert Thomson, had complained to the New York Times over an article by Zachery Kouwe last Friday.

According to the NY Times, the Times editors “investigated and found other examples” of copied passages in  Kouwe’s work:

The Times made the matter public on Monday, when it published an Editors’ Note stating that Mr. Kouwe had copied passages from Wall Street Journal and Reuters articles, and used them “in a number” of his articles and in blog posts, without attribution. It did not say how many times that had occurred.

Also related: Alan D. Mutter reflects on the concept of plagiarism in the age of the internet, in his most recent blog post:

[B]ecause the web is open, easily accessible and readily searchable, it is more likely than ever that cheaters will be discovered faster and more surely than ever before.

Editor&Publisher: ‘Maureen Dowd admits wrongdoing, NYT will correct’

Speculations of plagiarism were zipping round Twitter yesterday, following this blog post hosted on myTPM Blog. Visit Huffington Post for an explanation from New York Times’ Maureen Dowd.

Editor&Publisher does a good job of summing it up, at this link. Extract below:

“(…) by mid [Sunday] afternoon she [Maureen Dowd] she was on the hot seat for using a paragraph almost word-for-word from one of the most prominent liberal bloggers, Jost [sic] Marshall of Talking Points Memo, without attribution. Charges of ‘plagiarism’ ensued.

“By early evening, Dowd had admitted wrongdoing, in an email to Huffington Post, and said she wanted to apologize to [Josh] Marshall. She also said that the Times would issue a correction tomorrow – and the copy was changed in her column to attribute the line of thought to Marshall.

“She seemed to be suggesting, however, that she had merely heard the line of argument from a friend, who did not attribute it to Marshall. This wouldn’t explain, however, why the rather lengthy sentence, a full paragraph, matched Marshall’s writing virtually word for word.”

Full story at this link…

TheseDigitalTimes: What to do when your blog post reappears without links and credit

John Welsh proffers his advice on what to do when your blog post reappears on someone else’s with what you consider to be inadequate links or credit.

Copyscape is a good first step, he suggests. It ‘supplies you with a list of sites carrying the same text as yours. Copyscape highlights those bits of the text that have been replicated. It even counts the words. Mine was 100 per cent,” Welsh writes.

Full story at this link…