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Sep 01, 2012

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TL

The rule is Don't Do It. Ever. It's plagiarism. Presenting someone else's work as your own earns an F in J School. It generally gets you fired at a newspaper. Examples are many, near and far.

Wire service (AP, NYT, Bloomberg) subscribers may ethically REWRITE wire-provided material (same facts, different presentation) and put a local byline on it, while acknowledging the source(s) of non-original reporting. For example, "The Associated Press contributed to this report."

The WFMY citation is a bad example poster child. Shame on NotNews2.

justcorbly

Businesses that pay for press releases are certainly happy to see them copied and published without identification or attribution. But, that practice often backfires on a publisher when readers figure out that material they thought was original and unbiased turns out to be PR hype. Readers will see that as advertising in another guise and decide that they can no longer treat that publisher as a credible source.

I'd rather see the PR material in quotes with an attribution.

Ed Cone

Thnx, TL.

Corbs, yes, it makes news orgs look credulous and lazy. My policy is to just post all or part of the release, clearly identified as such.

Spag

What is the rule on politicians who plagiarize speeches?

Ed Cone

They get to be VP. Journalism has higher standards.

Spag

Yes, but not by much these days

Joe Killian

It's bad form, at the very least.

Some of these examples seem like they'd be firing offenses in any newsroom where I ever worked.

You can't put your name on something if huge pieces of it have been written by someone else.

Or you shouldn't be able to and stay employed.

Spag

"You can't put your name on something if huge pieces of it have been written by someone else. Or you shouldn't be able to and stay employed."

So you'll be sending Biden to the unemployment line, Joe

It seems to me that the easy thing to do would be preface a piece with "The AP reports" or "According to a press release" or "According to Neil Kinnock and Robert F. Kennedy"...

Spag

Back on the veracity of "fact-checkers" and "reporters" not crediting press releases...

"Immediately after Ryan finished delivering the passage on the GM plant in his speech, top Obama adviser Stephanie Cutter sent this tweet: “Ryan blaming the President for a GM auto plant that closed under Pres Bush—thought he was smarter than that.” With one click after another, Cutter’s false claim became accepted wisdom.

So we are left with this irony: Paul Ryan was accused of lying because journalists and self-described “fact checkers” relied, at least in part, on a misstatement of fact that came directly from the Obama campaign."

Hmmm, taking something directly from the White House and passing it off as your own.

Thoughts? Criticisms?

Andrew Brod

Production at the Janesville plant did indeed end in December 2008, when 1200 of the plant's 1300 workers were laid off. The other 100 stayed until April 2009 to finish a pre-existing truck order and close the plant down.

But believe what you want, I guess.

Spag

Maybe you should read the link the next time, Andrew. It contains what Ryan actually said about the plant as opposed to what you and the rest of the liberal "fact checkers" and their defenders want people to believe he said about the plant:

"When he talked about change, many people liked the sound of it—especially in Janesville, where we were about to lose a major factory. A lot of guys I went to high school with worked at that G.M. plant. Right there at that plant, candidate Obama said, “I believe that if our government is there to support you, this plant will be here for another 100 years.”

That’s what he said in 2008. Well, as it turned out, that plant didn’t last another year. It is locked up and empty to this day. And that’s how it is in so many towns where the recovery that was promised is nowhere in sight."

Notice how Ryan concedes they were "ABOUT to lose a major factory". He NEVER said it closed under Obama. He was referring to Obama's promise that his plan would stop it from closing.

The "fact-checkers" were wrong. They got their information/spin from the White House and keeping in line with Ed's plagiarism theme, didn't point that out- much less actually "fact check" the White House spin. They ran with it, and like you, they are still running.

Spag

P.S., I fully expect this thread to die now because of the Fonzie Syndrome.

Andrew Brod

Spag's Weekly Standard link cites the Janesville Gazette's statement that the Janesville GM plant closed in 2009 instead of 2008. Conveniently, the WS doesn't provide a link to the Gazette.

So let's search the Gazette. Here's a Factcheck.org piece it ran without altering the claim that Ryan's statement was inaccurate. Here's a photo gallery the paper ran titled "Last Day at GM." It noted that it was the end of SUV production, which was the plant's major line. And here's a recent Gazette story which says again that production ended in 2008.

Andrew Brod

I'll type this slowly, because this seems to be confusing Spag.

Obama's prediction was conditional: the Janesville plant would remain open if "if our government is there to support you." Well, apparently our government wasn't there to support the Janesville plant, because it closed later that year. The reason it's inaccurate, verging on dishonest, to blame Obama for that, or to claim that his prediction was wrong, is because the government that wasn't there to support the Janesville plant was being run by the Bush administration. The plant closed before Obama could enact any government policy whatsoever.

Really, this isn't that hard.

Andrew Brod

Oh, and Ryan never ran a sub-3:00 marathon either. Seems he has a problem with the truth.

Or will Spag try to persuade us that his actual 4:01 time was actually 2:50-something due to a wormhole or a phase shift or something.

Ged

Anybody who quotes Star Trek in a blog comment is okay by me, Andrew! :-)

Andrew Brod

And anyone who has the same name as the title character of Le Guin's Wizard of Earthsea is okay by me.

bubba

Re Arnold's Always Alternate Reality, Ryan plant closing version:

"Obama's problem is that he showed up and made empty promises to pander for votes. Ryan never said Obama was personally responsible for the plant's closure, but he accurately stated that it closed down within a year of candidate Obama's hope-filled speech and remains closed today. Obama goes on and on about saving the auto industry and his economic recovery. That boarded-up Janesville plant tells a different story."

Spag

Andrew, that is a completely different argument than whether Ryan lied or not. You are now offering your opinion as to why the plant was about to close in the first place, not whether Ryan lied about Obama's plans to save it.

Your shifting of the argument is what is "verging on dishonest" and that is being generous.

I will repeat again, Ryan said the plant was "ABOUT" to close and Obama stated his belief that if elected, his policies would keep it open. That was the truth.

Here's what Obama said:

"I know that General Motors received some bad news yesterday, and I know how hard Gov. (Jim) Doyle has fought to keep jobs in this plant. But I also know how much progress you’ve made — how many hybrids and fuel-efficient vehicles you’re churning out. And I believe that if our government is there to support you, and give you the assistance you need to re-tool and make this transition, that this plant will be here for another hundred years. The question is not whether a clean energy economy is in our future, it’s where it will thrive. I want it to thrive right here in the United States of America; right here in Wisconsin; and that’s the future I’ll fight for as your president."

Obama is talking about HIS policies and what he thought they would do.

Obama also "believed" his plan would create a lot of jobs and unemployment wouldn't rise above 8%. Is pointing out that those things didn't come to pass "lying"? This GM story is no different. Since when is it lying to point out that the President's plan didn't do what the President "believed" it would?

Only in an alternate reality.

So let's break it down:

1) Nobody disputes the plant was "about" to close when Obama gave his speech before Obama became President.
2) Obama implied that he had a plan that could save the plant and keep it open (knowing himself it was on the verge of closing).
3) Plant stopped major operations before Obama took office and finally closed a few months after Obama took office.
4) "It is locked up and empty to this day".
5) "And that’s how it is in so many towns where the recovery that was promised is nowhere in sight."
6) Obama did not cause the recession, but his policies have failed to get us out of it.

The plant could have been closed when Obama gave his speech and it wouldn't have made any difference because Ryan's point never was to blame Obama for the plant closing, rather his point was the failure of Obama's plan to do anything about it despite making bold assertions to the contrary.

Really, this isn't that hard.

bubba

And let's read what the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel had to say last year, before Ryan was picked for the VP slot:

"General Motors Co. has committed to reopen its idled plant in Spring Hill, Tenn., and keep its shuttered assembly plant in Janesville on standby status.The commitment to the former Saturn plant in Tennessee was part of a contract settlement reached late last week between GM and the United Auto Workers union.

Since they were shut down in 2009, both the Janesville and Tennessee plants have been on standby status, meaning they were not producing vehicles, but they were not completely shut down.

....The Janesville plant stopped production of SUVs in 2008 and was idled in 2009 after it completed production of medium-duty trucks.

Remaining on standby means not much has changed in Janesville. Community leaders say they would be ready if the GM plant reopened, but no one seems to be counting on that."

Guess those community leaders didn't have much faith in Obama and his little 2008 speech. Looks like they were right, to no one's great surprise.

I'm sure Arnold can set them straight.

Andrew Brod

And yet you keep missing the point. Well done.

Andrew Brod

I meant Spag. For Bubba that's a given.

bubba

"I meant Spag. For Bubba that's a given."

Cover your ass Arnold. It's showing.

Andrew Brod

I think you guys should believe what you want. If you think Ryan says accurate, truthful things (he really did run a sub-3:00 marathon!, Obama really is the only one cutting $700 billion from Medicare!), then great, good for you. Zay gezunt - go in health.

But don't crap on my shoes and expect me not to object when you tell me it's Shinola.

Spag

"Oh, and Ryan never ran a sub-3:00 marathon either. Seems he has a problem with the truth."

Talk about making things up.

I know, I know, that's different...

Playbook fail.

Andrew Brod

Or you could change the subject again. Your call.

Spag

Unbelievable. Andrew gets caught in a false narrative, completely misses the point and attempts to cover it up, tries to change the subject from the alleged GM lie to the alleged Medicare "lie" (which relies once again on assigning things to Ryan that Ryan never said), and then accuses others of missing the point and changing the subject.

Bubba, I can't let you borrow that vise right now because it still has Andrew's nuts in it.

cheripickr (or worstperson on the internet pending permission to change)

It's particularly comical that the grinning Cheshire Economist not only answers reason with empty snark, as usual, but also tries to deflect the subject to the marathon, then accuses his conqueror of changing the subject merely for following him there with a little tit for tat. Vintage.

Andrew Brod

Oh good. It's CP, who never snarks.

Actually, I didn't change the subject to Medicare. That was merely an example of Ryan's difficulty with the truth. I also didn't change the subject to marathons. But of course Spag knows that too. Red herrings are his stock in trade.

The fact is that Obama made his speech in February 2008, months before the June 2008 announcement that the Janesville GM plant would close. The bad news Obama referred to was some GM financial news that had no direct connection to the Janesville plant. So it's not true that everyone knew the plant was about to close. It had been feared for years, but the imminence of the closure was hardly common knowledge.

When Ryan said the plant was about to close, it was August 2012. That obviously tells us nothing about what people knew in February 2008.

This simple fact changes a lot, because if it wasn't generally known that the plant was about to close, Spag's creative interpretation of Ryan's comments are hard to support.

He says, "The plant could have been closed when Obama gave his speech and it wouldn't have made any difference because Ryan's point never was to blame Obama for the plant closing, rather his point was the failure of Obama's plan to do anything about it despite making bold assertions to the contrary."

But the fact is that it wasn't closed when Obama made his speech. The fact is that Ryan highlighted Obama's remarks about this particular plant and used its particular closure to claim that Obama hadn't kept his word. And if the issue is whether Obama "did anything about it," one might note the fact that Obama bailed out GM. The only additional thing he could have done would have been to order GM to reopen Janesville. I know you Tea Partiers think he's a socialist, but issuing such an order was as likely as Obama ordering gravity to reverse itself.

Could Ryan have meant something more subtle, along the lines of what Spag's claiming? I suppose. However, all we have to go on is what he said. And when Politifact asked a Ryan spokesman "for evidence that Obama promised to keep the Janesville plant open and failed" (emphasis mine), the response wasn't that Ryan hadn't claimed such a thing.

Spag

Immediately after Ryan's speech I flipped over to MSNBC where I caught a very concerned looking Howard Fineman saying "The Obama campaign’s priority is to turn that guy and his baby blues into a lying face.” The rest of the media and people like Andrew quickly got the White House memo because they won't let real facts stand in the way of that goal.

All of them rely on inserting words into Ryan's speech that Ryan never said or used in order to "turn that guy and his baby blues into a lying face."

Andrew's latest attempt requires us to believe that Ryan claimed that Obama "promised" to keep the Janesville plant open. Ryan said no such thing. He did say that Obama promised a recovery.

So let's go through what Ryan said line by line and Andrew and anyone else can tell us what part of the sentence is untrue:

1) My home state voted for President Obama.
2) When he talked about change, many people liked the sound of it—especially in Janesville, where we were about to lose a major factory.
3) A lot of guys I went to high school with worked at that G.M. plant.
4) Right there at that plant, candidate Obama said, “I believe that if our government is there to support you, this plant will be here for another 100 years.”
5) That’s what he said in 2008.
6) Well, as it turned out, that plant didn’t last another year.
7) It is locked up and empty to this day.
8) And that’s how it is in so many towns where the recovery that was promised is nowhere in sight.

That's it. Ryan's entire passage. Now take what he actually said without inserting any words and point out the lies.

They can't do it.

When that guy and his baby blues was named as VP, Democrats claimed to be excited thinking that they could leverage the Medicare argument. At the time I warned them to be careful what they asked for. Baby blue has them very concerned because he is going to wipe the floor with Biden and could steal a lot of the youth vote.

Ged

Of course Andrew, the irony here is that Sam and Bubba and others can't even acknowledge the fact that conservatives like Ryan completely opposed the auto industry bailout that came later anyway. So to use this GM plant's closing as a stick when they themselves were unwilling to back the bailout, is hypocrisy of the highest order.

But who needs facts when they tend to get in the way?

RBM

RE:Roch's way vs. Ed's way

If one extrapolates both positions a clear difference results.

Ed's way is the way it is now.

Roch's way would be different.

How different ? At least more honest and less lazy. I find those attributes unequivocal improvements vs the way it is now.

Roch

It seems to me the question to ask is why would a newsorg copy material form another source without attribution to begin with? Seriously. Who benefits?

The downsides are to the reader: It deceives the reader; gives the false impression that the material has been vetted by the newsorg.

The upsides are to the newsorg alone, cynical and at the expense of the reader: It makes it appear as if the newsorg and staff (calling them reporters is an insult to real reorters) are more capable and knowledgeable than they are. Their stature is enhanced by lying to their readers.

WFMY knows what they do is wrong. When confronted by a reporter from the Detriot Free Press who had an article copied entirely and credited to a WFMY staffer, they removed the staffer's name from the byline, but they said it happened by mistake, a click of the wrong button. To acknowledge the multiple other occurances would be to admit that, in truth, they tolerate the practice.

I'd think other responsible local newsorgs would find WFMY's practices newsworthy. I wouldn't hesitate for a minute to report a truthful story that exposes my competeion frauds if I ran a local paper or TV station.

Andrew Brod

Right, Ged. If Ryan's statement is interpreted in simple terms, as most people have done, his defenders run up against the inconvenient timing of the Janesville plant's demise. If Ryan's defenders try to get around that by interpreting his statement broadly, as a claim that Obama didn't help the auto industry to which the Janesville plant belonged, they run up against the inconvenient fact of Obama's GM/Chrysler bailout.

All one can do is shrug. People will believe what they will.

Ed Cone

The amount of material reprinted may worsen the offense. As lazy and credulous as it is to just reprint chunks of press releases in articles you claim as your own, claiming authorship of articles that consist largely or almost entirely of regurgitated material seems dishonest.

I've never worked for a daily paper, or news site, but if a pissant local blog like this one can manage to rewrite, interpret, and/or present releases in their original form with acknowledgment of the source, then the pros should be able to do it, too.

An interesting point in the linked article is that Lehrer's transgressions (or at least the length of time they went unnoticed) are to some extent a byproduct of journalism's decline -- the layers of editors and fact-checkers that once protected a brand have been eroded extensively. I've seen it myself. Not pretty. My guess is that the embarrassing DigTriad lacks anything approaching adequate staffing, funding, and quality controls.

Roch

Hard not to agree with your observations, Ed, but it would require nothing of WFMY in the way of additional resources to simply instruct their staff: "Give attribution to material you copy and don't put your name on something you didn't write."

The only reasons I can think of for not doing that are ones that reflect poorly on WFM's integrity.

(Unfortunately, a more likely response is a series of promos about how trustworthy they are.)

Ed Cone

I agree, Roch.

And to be clear, my point has never been to defend the lazy and credulous practice, just to point out that some distinction is made (if not respected or encouraged) within the profession between plagiarism and what Seife, the journalism prof who wrote the article, calls "press release plagiarism."

The difference may be academic to many observers, but I'd guess a lot of editors who would at least claim that plagiarism of the sort you have lately uncovered at WFMY is a firing offense turn around and actively encourage their writers to perpetrate press release plagiarism. In other words, it may be wrong, but it's not against the rules.

Except when it is. The example of Lehrer taking a quote from a release and claiming it was told to him is clearly out of bounds. And I've never heard of it as accepted practice in feature writing, or in top-shelf news writing. I'd guess it would get you fired from the NYT, for example.

Roch

Yes, I had come to understand the distintions you were making, even if I did't see much difference in the consequences.

It's probably worth a post of its own, but the News & Record has it just about right. They, first of all, avoid enitirely putting a reporter's name to material largely from another source and, secondly, they usually make it quite clear when some block of information is from a press release, letting the reader know that we are to consider the source, that the information has not been checked.

justcorbly

Just to delink the issue of a byline… most readers typically assume anything they read in a publication is original content, with or without bylines, unless it is specifically labeled as coming from another source.

So, here on the web, we could see someone stand up a site -- let's call it Corbly's Eye -- and populate it with entirely with thinly massaged press releases. It isn't terribly difficult, or time consuming, to rewrite a headline and tweak a lede graf to make it feel like you wrote the piece.

Not that this is an original idea. The web is brimming with "news" sites, especially tech sites, that survive by repurposing press releases. I doubt few of the readers would abandon them if they figured it out.

But, it can't bode well for real journalism if readers are given reasons to assume real journalism encompasses plagiarizing press releases.

Spag

"If Ryan's statement is interpreted in simple terms, as most people have done, his defenders run up against the inconvenient timing of the Janesville plant's demise...."

Which one of the sentences that I posted earlier from Ryan is false, Andrew? Are you saying that all of that truth adds up to one big lie? Go ahead, point out the sentence that isn't true.

There is going to be another political convention this week. I'm willing to bet that Ed will have nothing to say about fact-checking statements that come out of that convention, and neither will you.

Marshall

"but if a pissant local blog like this" found humor in this..thanks.

bubba

"If Ryan's statement is interpreted in simple terms, as most people have done, his defenders run up against the inconvenient timing of the Janesville plant's demise...."

Since Cone won't let me discuss the narcissistic traits of certain posters here, I think this is worth seeing and reading:

Obama, then:
"I believe that if our government is there to support you, and give the assistance you need to retool and make this transition, that this plant will be here for another 100 years. So, that’s our priority… I want it to thrive right here in the United States of America, I want it to thrive right here in Janesville, Wisconsin. And that’s the future I will fight for as president of the United States of America."

Ryan, now:
"A lot of guys I went to high school with worked at that GM plant. Right there at that plant, candidate Obama said: 'I believe that if our government is there to support you … this plant will be here for another hundred years.' That’s what he said in 2008. Well, as it turned out, that plant didn’t last another year."

And as has been established numerous times here and elsewhere, the plant did not close until 2009, and the plant was on standby for re-activation by GM but such reactivation never took place.

scharrison

I don't know if any of you caught this show a few weeks ago, but it blew my mind. I sure hope the N&R doesn't try it...

bubba

"...the fact that conservatives like Ryan completely opposed the auto industry bailout that came later anyway. "

I overlooked that little gem from Ged, and Arnold's subsequent endorsement of that little faux paux.

Who wants to explain it to them?

"Fact checking", indeed!

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