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Innerbrat
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Is this churnalism or plain old plagiarism? 
14th-Oct-2009 12:44 pm
full of shit
As I took a seat on the tube on my way home last night, I had to move a copy of the London Lite on to the next empty seat, and my companion asked me if anything interesting was happening in the world.

I flicked through the free paper and said that the most pressing things going on in the world was that a celebrity is dead, other celebrities aren't yet, and someone still thinks we care about MP's expenses.

One headline caught my eye on this brief flick through: being about a rape, so I quickly read the first paragraph and continued with my conversation.

The paragraph in question was:
A Policeman left a terrified woman in the clutches of a rapist after he accepted the attacker's explanation they were having consenual sex.


It's an horrific story, all told, buried as it was on page 11 behind all the dead pop star news. But I had a conversation to have.

On the seat on which I'd left the now close Lite was a copy of the now-also-free Evening Standard, which someone had left open to the same page 11, on which was another article on the same incident.

At least, you'd expect it to be another article. I caught the first paragraph:
A terrified woman was left in the clutches of a rapist after a policeman accepted his explanation that they were having noisy consensual sex.


Uh.

Well that could just be coincidence, right? Two very similar opening paragraphs for articles on the same subject? I had to keep reading - and discovered that this was the same article, almost exactly.





London Lite
Kevin Widdop
Evening Standard
Ellen Widdup
A policeman left a terrified woman in the clutches of a rapist after he accepted the attacker's explanation they were having consensual sex. A terrified woman was left in the clutches of a rapist after a policeman accepted his explanation that they were having noisy consensual sex.
PC Matthew Harris, who may now face the sack, was called to a flat in Greenwich, south-east London, after a neighbour said she heard the victim's cries for help. Pc Matthew Harris, who may now face the sack, was called to a flat in Greenwich after a neighbour heard the victim's cries for help.
But when he arrived and spoke to Vytautas Jasionis, he believed the 54-year-old's lies that the couple were just having noisy sex.  
He also failed to speak to the 32-year-old victim and did not carry out checks on Jasionis's brother Antanas, who is wanted over the murder of his wife in Lithuania and was in the flat at the time. When he arrived he spoke to Vytautas Jasionis, 54, but failed to speak to the 32-year-old victim. He also failed to do checks on Jasionis's brother Antanas, wanted for the murder of his wife in Lithuania, who was in the apartment at the time.
They're both short articles, so I'm only quoting this for comparison purposes under Fair Use. But they go on like that - paragraph for paragraph the same article. The one in the Lite is longer by two paragraphs at the end, which one could infer were cut for the shorter space the Standard could afford to it (Don't get me started on why the Hell this article was only on page 11 of either paper).

Interestingly, the Standard and the Lite are run by the same company: on paper, the Lite claims its website is http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/, but that site is covered in Standard logos and any reference to the Lite is well hidden. The article that appears on that site is the Standard's version, although the credit to Ellen Widdup does not appear. I'm not sure why the Standard decided to go free, in which case, making its main competitor its own sister publication. Mine is not to understand the ways of the printed media.

The very similar names of Ellen Widdup and Kevin Widdop appear on cursory glance to be mere coincidence: the internet carries separate identities for them and they don't even follow each other on Twitter. If they're related beyond working for the same company, they don't make an obvious thing about it. Kevin Widdop's name appeared on about half the articles in yesterday's Lite, but Ellen Widdup's was only attached to two in the Standard, so I wasn't able to compare any further articles by those two in the papers, nor in my limited, very shallow online searches today.

I'm aware of the practice of churnalism: in which pressed-for-time journalists rehash press releases, single sources, and such like with minimal research of their own: I don't endorse it, but I'm not a journalist. This goes further though: this is the same article published twice with two different names on it. This is someone claiming credit for something they didn't do, or - at the most generous - two people claiming sole credit for a joint endeavour. It's plagiarism.

I just hope the Standard only paid once for an article they printed twice.
Opinions 
14th-Oct-2009 11:53 am (UTC)
Or the same person using another name? That was my impression.


14th-Oct-2009 11:58 am (UTC)
I considered that, and decided that it probably was no more likely then them bieng related. If it is the same person, zie has constructed a pretty elaborate set of identities for hirself - separate LinkedIn accounts, Twitters, &c. A photo exists of Ellen, but I didn't come across one for Kevin.

Self-plagiarism (which is still illegal, IIRC) is pretty sloppy if you're going to go to all that effort.
14th-Oct-2009 11:58 am (UTC)
It's interesting that both journos have the same surname. Maybe both stories come from the same idependent news service. But that wouldn't explain the slightly different wording. Or why Ellen became Kevin, or vice versa.
14th-Oct-2009 05:20 pm (UTC)
I always assumed that all three London papers were by the same company but aimed at a different audience (until the London Paper went bust, anyway).

If you look at the two author names, and say them aloud, they're very similar. What are the statistical odds of having only one letter variation in surnames for two reporters working on the same story? Particularly given how unusual the surnames are.

As someone who never remembers to look at the author anyway, I have to admit it doesn't bother me all that much if they did work together/are the same person. It would perhaps annoy me more if I'd paid for the ES, which I never did.
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