The problem with media plagiarism

Summary:I don't know if you've noticed, but the advent of online publishing appears to have exacerbated the problem of plagiarism. I can still recall, albeit with amusement, an incident last year in which I saw an exclusive story of mine being passed off as having been written by another reporter.

I don't know if you've noticed, but the advent of online publishing appears to have exacerbated the problem of plagiarism. I can still recall, albeit with amusement, an incident last year in which I saw an exclusive story of mine being passed off as having been written by another reporter.

I stumbled on the story because I was searching for the photo that accompanied the story, since I wasn't able to save it on my hard disk. Having done so, I was dumbfounded to find the exact photo--as well as my story--credited to another reporter working for an e-government-focused Web site.

For some weird reason, I was not offended by the author, whose picture on the site depicted a young lady in black suit, and her cheap trick. I chose instead to e-mail the editor of the Web site, who immediately took down the page and apologized for the transgression.

It's important to emphasize, however, that it's not always the online sites which commit these follies. Sometimes, it's the other way around with the print media copying their online counterparts.

I have a first-hand experience on this too. Besides blogging for ZDNet Asia, I'm also an IT news correspondent there and I once filed a story regarding the appointment of lawyer Ivan Uy as head of the now-defunct Commission on ICT (CICT).

A couple of days after my story was published, the Philippine Star, a local English broadsheet, came out with a story that also appeared in its Web site. If you look closely at the bottom of the page where the author describes the profile of Uy, and compare it with my ZDNet Asia article, a case of clear plagiarism crops up.

Why am I convinced that my work was indeed plagiarized? It's because there was a minor error in the bio of Uy, which the author included in his story. Also, when I first read the story in print, I thought I was reading my own story. Writers know that feeling.

What is it with reporters that make it hard for them to make the proper attribution? Is giving credit to whom credit is due such a painful thing to do? Do they think that they can still get away with plagiarism in this borderless world?

The answer to these questions is pretty obvious, but you wonder why plagiarism is still rampant in the media--and blogging--industry.

In the U.S., media organizations do not have any qualms reporting that a rival company got to a story first. I have seen it many times in which the New York Times, the epitome of U.S. journalism, valiantly conceded that a certain story was first broke by a rival publication such as the Washington Post or The Wall Street Journal.

So why can't we do that here?

Topics: Browser

About

Melvin G. Calimag is currently the executive editor of an IT news website in the Philippines. Melvin has been covering the local IT beat for the last 13 years. He is currently a board member at the IT Journalists Association of the Philippines (CyberPress), and also serves as a charter member with the Philippine Science Journalists Associ... Full Bio

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