Home Corporate Governance Why is “cut and paste” ever allowed in the newsroom?

Why is “cut and paste” ever allowed in the newsroom?

I read an article this morning in The Toronto Star regarding an attempt by some human rights activists to draw attention to the United Nations-sanctioned blockade of Gaza by the Israeli Defence Force. Part way through the piece I realized that the article was repeating itself, either due to a forgetful writer, a rush job by the editor, or a mistake in the copy process. At the end of the article, lo and behold, the Star credited “files from New York Times”.

That got me thinking: no Star writer would repeat information if they wrote the news article from scratch. It can only be due to the writer having generously borrowed from an actual NYT article. I thought: let’s have a look and see if the NYT ran their own story on the matter.

Sure enough, a NYT piece served as the backbone for Star writer Kim Magi’s own effort. It begs a question for John Miller: when is using “files” from another media outlet suitable, and at what point does it cross the line into plagiarism? Is it possible, in this day and age of erratic journalism standards, that one outlet can republish the work of another based upon a commercial agreement betwen them (as exists between The Star and the NYT I believe), without making it clear what comes from the source (the original NYT article by Jodi Rudoren) and what is the original work of the client (in this case the Toronto Star)?

Side-by-side, the Star’s effort looks like a cut and paste job to me. Isn’t that part of what got the Globe and Mail’s Peggy Wente into trouble? As any of my University Profs would say, endnoting a thought or the original source material isn’t the same when you are quoting it exactly as it appeared elsewhere — you need to clearly attribute the excerpt.

See for yourself:

From The New York Times:

Israel Seizes Activist Ship en Route to Gaza Strip

By JODI RUDOREN

Published: October 20, 2012

JERUSALEM — The Israeli Navy on Saturday seized a European ship headed to the Gaza Strip to try to break Israel’s maritime blockade against the Hamas-controlled region and diverted it to an Israeli port.

The military said that the ship, the Estelle, had been seized without incident and taken to the port of Ashdod, in southern Israel, and that the more than two dozen people on board, including five European lawmakers and a former Canadian legislator, would be turned over to the police.

Advocates supporting the mission said the vessel had been surrounded by warships, and they called the boarding an “assault.”

“The last contact we have from our people on board was that they were going to be boarded,” said David Heap, an activist who was attending a conference in Gaza. “We have no confirmation from them of how they are, and we may not for some time hear directly from them.”

Israel imposed a naval blockade on Gaza in 2009, saying it was needed to prevent the smuggling of arms to the Islamic militant group Hamas, which governs the Palestinian enclave, and to jihadist groups operating there.

Mr. Heap said the Estelle was the latest of more than a dozen ships that had tried to break the blockade since 2010, when Israeli commandos killed nine pro-Palestinian activists after encountering resistance during a raid on a six-ship flotilla led by the Turkish vessel the Mavi Marmara.

After the Mavi Marmara raid, a United Nations panel found that Israel’s naval blockade was “legitimate self-defense and that Israel’s decision to intercept the flotilla was indeed legal under international law.” Activists have disputed the panel’s conclusion.

The episode led some of the restrictions on imports to Gaza to be relaxed, but also caused a deep rift in relations between Israel and Turkey, which has indicted four Israelis for their roles.

Among other things, the Estelle was carrying an anchor for a project called Gaza’s Ark, in which activists are building a boat intended to break the export curbs. “We carry humanitarian supplies,” Jim Manly, the former Canadian lawmaker who was on board, said in a statement posted online last week. “Our only ‘dangerous cargo’ is a cargo of hope.”

A spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces, Eytan Buchman, said the Estelle was the third such ship the military had boarded in two years. The military said that the boarding “was carried out in accordance with international law” and after repeated unsuccessful attempts to deter the ship through diplomatic channels and contact with passengers.

On Saturday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel issued a statement praising the operation and condemning the attempt to break the blockade.

“The people who were on the ship also know that there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and they aim only to provoke and blacken Israel’s name,” the statement said. “If human rights were truly important to these activists, they would sail to Syria. We shall continue to defend our borders.”

Fares Akram contributed reporting from the Gaza Strip.

From The Toronto Star:

Israeli naval vessels board pro-Palestinian boat carrying Jim Manly

Published on Saturday October 20, 2012

An Israeli activist holds a sign in support of Gaza near the entrance to the port of Ashdod. The Israeli navy seized an international pro-Palestinian activist ship in the Mediterranean sea on Saturday.

Kim Magi
Staff Reporter

The family of former MP Jim Manly is concerned for his health and safety after the Israeli navy boarded a ship he was on. The ship was apparently headed to the Gaza Strip in an attempt to break Israel’s maritime blockade against the Hamas-controlled region.

Jim, whose 80th birthday is next week, requires daily medication as a result of two bypass surgeries and his son said they hope the Israeli government gives it to him.

“He’s a bit old to be taking a trip like this but he’s a determined advocate for human rights,” said Paul Manly, adding that his father is so passionate about the issue, there was no way the family could have stopped him from taking the trip.

The passengers on the European ship, the Estelle, also included five members of European parliaments, according to those involved in the campaign.

An Israeli military spokesman said that the ship had been seized without incident and taken to the port of Ashdod, in southern Israel, and that those on board would be turned over to the police.

“I know people have been brutalized and people have been killed on these flotillas,” Paul Manly said. He doesn’t think there has been any violence but knows his father wouldn’t sustain it well.

He said his family only found out the ship had been blocked this morning when he received a call from the media for an interview. The only details he has about the condition of the passengers is through the news.

“I’m just sitting here in a black hole with all of this,” he said.

A statement from an organization affiliated with the mission said that late Saturday morning, “Israeli warships surrounded the Estelle, and the assault on the peaceful ship started.” David Heap, an activist connected to the movement who was attending a conference in Gaza, said he had no information about what had happened aboard the Estelle as it was intercepted.

The Twitter account @CanadaBoatGaza sent out a link to a pre-recorded video message made by Manly. In the 1-minute video entitled “We have lost contact with the Estelle”, Manley urged Canadians to ask MPs and Prime Minister Stephen Harper to insist that the Israeli government respects the rights of the passengers on the ship.

“The last contact we have from our people on board was that they were going to be boarded,” Heap said. “We have no confirmation from them of how they are, and we may not for some time hear directly from them.”

Paul Manly said he doesn’t know when his father will return home.

“As a group they pledged that they won’t leave anybody behind so they’ll have to deport them all together,” he said.

Israel imposed a naval blockade on Gaza in early 2009, saying it was needed to prevent the smuggling of weapons to the Palestinian enclave, which is governed by the Islamic militant group Hamas. Israeli officials were also worried about weapons being smuggled to other militant groups.

Heap said the Estelle was the latest of more than a dozen ships that had tried to break the blockade since 2010, when Israeli commandos killed nine pro-Palestinian activists after encountering resistance during a raid on a six-ship flotilla led by the Turkish vessel the Mavi Marmara.

After the Mavi Marmara raid, a United Nations panel found that Israel’s naval blockade was “legitimate self-defense and that Israel’s decision to intercept the flotilla was indeed legal under international law.” Activists have disputed the panel’s conclusion.

The episode led to some relaxing of the restrictions on imports to Gaza but also caused a deep rift in relations between Israel and Turkey. A spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces, Eytan Buchman, said the Estelle was the third such ship the military had boarded in two years.

Among other things, the Estelle was carrying an anchor for a project called “Gaza’s Ark,” for which activists are building a boat intended to break the limits on exports.

“We carry humanitarian supplies,” Jim Manly, the former member of the Canadian Parliament who was on board the ship, said in a statement posted online last week. “Our only ‘dangerous cargo’ is a cargo of hope.”

The Israeli statement said that the boarding “was carried out in accordance with international law” and after repeated attempts to deter the ship (through direct contact with passengers and diplomatic channels) were unsuccessful. Buchman said offers were made to transfer the cargo on the Estelle to Gaza through Ashdod.

“It should be stressed that any organization or state who wishes to transfer supplies or aid to the Gaza Strip can do so via the existing land crossings and in coordination with Israeli authorities,” the statement said.

“My father has been a powerful advocate for human rights and social justice in Canada and abroad and I would hope that the Israelis treat him with the respect and dignity that he deserves,” Paul said. “He’s spent a long life in service of other people and he’s served his country well.”

With files from New York Times

I’ve used bold type to show the direct lifts from the original NYT piece. Now, since The Star mentioned the fact that “files” came from the New York Times, does that absolve the newspaper from charges of plagairism? Not according to The University of Toronto’s Margaret Procter (and I quote):

Can’t I avoid problems just by listing every source in the bibliography? No, you need to integrate your acknowledgements into what you’re saying. Give the reference as soon as you’ve mentioned the idea you’re using, not just at the end of the paragraph.

So what exactly do I have to document? With experience reading academic prose, you’ll soon get used to the ways writers in your field refer to their sources. Here are the main times you should give acknowledgements. (You’ll notice many different formats in these examples. See the file on Standard Documentation Formats for advice on these systems.)

Quotations, paraphrases, or summaries: If you use the author’s exact words, enclose them in quotation marks, or indent passages of more than four lines.

Without a doubt, academic papers are a different product than an 832 word newspaper article. The U of T would be the first to acknowledge same. But, if a mainstream media writer is going to publish a piece where almost half of the work is directly copied from someone else, shouldn’t the byline be chaged to reflect that fact, rather than a throwaway reference to “files”? The New York Times didn’t provide “files” in this case; they actually wrote and had already published 299 words of the Star’s own “effort”: about 35% of the product.

Leaving aside the commercial relationship between two newspapers, I’m pretty sure that 35% figure is similar to what wound up convicting Ms. Wente vis-a-vis her crime against The Ottawa Citizen’s Dan Gardner. The Star’s an important newspaper; that’s why I read it. Which is why their readers deserve better; if you’re going to reprint a huge chunk of another journos’ work, share the byline.

MRM

 
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