Friday, April 18, 2008

"Straightforward plagiarism"

Given that we're all in a media-criticism mood lately, I thought I'd reprint an excerpt from something I stumbled upon in my studies recently. After analyzing the heavy use of press releases and other publicity materials in the print media, the authors conclude:

Taken together, these data portray a picture of the journalistic processes of news gathering and news reporting in which any meaningful independent journalistic activity by the media is the exception rather than the rule . We are not talking about investigative journalism here, but the everyday practices of news judgement, fact checking, balance, criticising and interrogating sources etc., that are, in theory, central to routine day-to-day journalism practice. News, especially in print, is routinely recycled from elsewhere, and yet the widespread use of other material is rarely attributed to its source (e.g. ‘‘according to PA. . .’’ or ‘‘a press release from X suggests that. . .’’). Such practices would, elsewhere, be regarded as straightforward plagiarism. [italics in the original, bold mine --J]

---Lewis, Williams & Frankin: “A Compromised 4th Estate?Journalism Studies Feb 2008 p. 1-20

The problems are systematic. The rot goes deep. The only bright side is the ferocity of the criticism, but it would be fantastic if journalists actually took it to heart even once.

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