Sunday, August 17, 2008

Going for the gold in plagiarism

Guy who sends me stuff sends me a link that comes from Slate. It's to a Chron story about an alternative paper in the Houston area that seems to have copped the Guinness in kited stories. Read it here and be amazed at the duplicity of some writers and some editors. The Internet has made that sort of piracy easier but also more likely to be detected. I read about a paper in Colorado that was boosting stories from other area pubs and running them as Associated Press stories when they hadn't been picked up and distributed by the AP ... and that was supposed to be a real newspaper, not an alt rag.
Alternative papers seem to have a looser concept of intellectual property with words as with music, and to feel that the idea of journalistic standards is just another crippling inconvenience unfairly put upon free spirits. I remember after the news of the My Lai massacre broke, a Boston alt paper ran a story about another purported massacre of Vietnamese civilians by American troops. When it turned out to be pure fiction, the paper offered the defense that it could have happened, and the fact that it hadn't was a grubby little factual technicality obscuring a greater truth. Pretty embarrassing. Someone has said that you're entitled to your own opinions but not your own facts.
I remember maybe 25 years back doing a piece on women with tattoos -- they were much less common then -- and finding a very similar story in the American-Statesman a few months later. They used the same tattoo shop and some of the same writing licks. I thought it was kinda funny.

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