Posts Tagged ‘Churnalism’

Another plagiarising “churnalist” resigns – this time at Politico

October 15, 2011

There would seem to be a plagiarising epidemic – but it is just that with the world wide web there is nowhere to hide.

After Johann Hari, and Steven King this time a reporter from Politico – Kendra Marr – has been found regurgitating material from the New York Times and Associated Press among others. The Media Decoder blog of the NYT has the story:

A reporter for the news Web site Politico resigned on Thursday after allegations that she had used content in a number of her stories from articles that had been published in The New York Times, The Associated Press, and other sources.

John F. Harris, Politico’s editor-in-chief, and Jim VandeHei, the site’s executive editor, published an editor’s note Thursday night after an e-mail inquiry by Susan Stellin, a freelance reporter for the New York Times, which prompted Politico editors to review work by reporter Kendra Marr. …. 

Seven articles have since been updated with editor’s notes explaining that earlier versions of the stories used reporting from other sources without attribution. Editors at Politico would not comment on the matter.

What is a little strange is the Politico has not or will not provide any details as to the extent of the plagiarism (for example by giving examples of what was plagiarised). But her profile is still on the Politico website. Her articles have been laundered and the plagiarised versions have been deleted. An editors note is added.

Kendra Marr

Kendra Marr

Kendra Marr is a national political reporter for POLITICO. She spent a year reporting out of the White House briefing room and is now tracking the 2012 presidential contenders.

Marr previously covered financial news for The Washington Post, where she followed Detroit’s automakers through bailout and bankruptcy. Her work has also appeared in the San Jose Mercury News, The Orange County Register and The Miami Herald.

Marr grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. She earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism and international studies at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.


Steven King of APCO Worldwide goes into hiding after plagiarism disclosed

October 9, 2011

After Steven King’s blatant – and rather incompetent – plagiarism in his articles for the Irish Examiner was disclosed by Brian Whelan all his previous articles for the Examiner are now being scrutinised. The editor of the Irish Examiner, Tim Vaughn,  has acted rather quickly and decisively which is certainly commendable (especially compared to the immediate and knee-jerk denials and defensive statements which are usually the case).

King is employed by APCO Worldwide and is based in Delhi but has now gone into hiding and is not responding to the Irish Examiner’s attempts to contact him. APCO Worldwide is a communications and public affairs consulting firm serving the corporate world and government bodies. No doubt they are expert at tailoring their copy to suit the needs of their clients. It begs the question as to what extent plagiarism and recycling other people’s material for their reports to their clients is part of their normal behaviour. Of course expectations of ethical standards at a public relations firm are not very high since their brief is to make their clients look good under all circumstances. Perhaps it is a case of the methods used routinely in public relations spilling over into King’s article for the Irish Examiner.

The Irish Independent reports:

The ‘Irish Examiner’ said it had been trying to contact Mr King, who is based in India, by email, phone and text message since Wednesday evening, but had not received a reply. “Obviously, I would much prefer if I had a response from him by now,” editor Tim Vaughan said. “This morning, therefore, I suspended publication of any future columns and in the meantime I still await a response.”

Mr King is based in New Delhi, where he works for public affairs and strategic communications firm APCO Worldwide. His company profile states that he is the former chief political adviser to Northern Ireland’s ex-First Minister David Trimble, and was also an Ulster Unionist Party negotiator on the Good Friday Agreement.

He has been writing a weekly column for the ‘Irish Examiner since 2006.

…. Mr Vaughan said Mr King’s previous columns were being put through plagiarism-detection software. “It is not practical for a newspaper to run every article through such software prior to publication, and there is a huge element of trust involved with freelance contributors.”

Interestingly APCO also makes much of the “trust” their clients have in them. I wonder what the clients being served by Steven King’s “cut and paste” methods may think?

Hari, Johann: Plagiarising Churnalist

June 29, 2011

Churnalism is a form of journalism in which press releases, wire stories and other forms of pre-packaged material are used to create articles in newspapers and other news media in order to meet increasing pressures of time and cost without undertaking further research or checking.

Now we have Johann Hari (who I had never heard of till yesterday) apparently just lifting the writings of people he has interviewed and reproducing them as if they were said to him. The Telegraph:

Johann Hari, a multiple award winning political journalist who writes for newspapers around the world, was exposed after a reader noticed that a quote in one of his stories had been cut and pasted from a book.

Such was the controversy that he was forced to respond in a personal blog, but his defence only further fuelled the intensity of the attacks against him.

Within 24 hours the discovery had sparked a massive backlash as other examples of his alleged plagiarism were uncovered.

On Twitter, the micro-blogging website, users posted a series of jokes in which famous sayings in history were re-created as if Mr Hari had been told them in intimate interviews, while blogs from rival journalists accusing him of so-called “churnalism”. ….

Calls also grew for him to hand back his George Orwell prize, the most prestigious in political journalism, while the Independent, his main newspaper, received demands that he should be sacked.

His reversal of fortunes has been dramatic. Just a few days ago Mr Hari remained the darling of the left wing and was recently named as one of the most influential people on the left in Britain. He has reported from wars all over the world and been a regular art critic on television and a book reviewer.

As well as the Orwell Prize he has won awards from Amnesty International, the British Press Awards and Stonewall, the gay right activists. He has been a renowned critic of other organisations if he believed they strayed from the truth, especially those on the right, and has more than 60,000 followers on Twitter. …. 

Last night the Media Standards Trust, which funds the Orwell prize, demanded an investigation to see whether he should be stripped of the award. It said that the issue had “the potential to damage its reputation”. The organisers of the award said they were following a “process” normally carried out in “situation such as this”.

Toby Young writes on his blog:

For some time now, Hari has been under fire for his cut-and-paste technique – that is, passing off things that his subjects have said elsewhere as things they’ve said to him during his interviews.

A typical example was his 2009 interview in the Independent with Malalai Joya, billed as “the bravest woman in Afghanistan” (hat tip Brian Whelan). Here’s an extract from the interview:

I ask if she was frightened, and she shakes her head. “I am never frightened when I tell the truth.” She is speaking fast now: “I am truly honoured to have been vilified and threatened by the savage men who condemned our country to such misery. I feel proud that even though I have no private army, no money, and no world powers behind me, these brutal despots are afraid of me and scheme to eliminate me.

But did she actually say this to Hari? The words Hari quoted are identical to those in a press release for her book, Raising My Voice: The Extraordinary Story of the Afghan Woman Who Dares to Speak Out:

I am truly honoured to have been vilified and threatened by the savage men who have condemned our country to such misery. I feel proud that even though I have no private army, no money and no world powers behind me, these brutal despots are afraid of me and scheme to eliminate me.

The furore has forced Hari to respond in a personal blog entitled Interview Etiquette.

He does protest too much.

Churnalism is nothing new and neither is plagiarism by journalists. But Mr. Hari seems to have plagiarised not merely for “improving” the quality of his articles but also for mis-representing his interviews (and by inference his interview techniques) as being far more productive and effective than they actually were.

Not just plagiarism in the service of an over-inflated journalist ego but actually a lack of ethics which is tantamount to corruption.

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