Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Plagiarism at The National?

Post submitted by a reader - "Examples of shoddy and unethical journalism at The National":

As many of us who worked there knew and know, The National is a sham publication, in many ways. The people running it are substandard, and the alarming lack of ethics in many sections of the paper is enough to make one laugh.

Here is a great recent example: on page 8 of the Business section - Wednesday August 31 - there are two wire stories, one headlined "Following every move" and one headlined "Hacker reveals his code of conduct." The first one is a Reuters piece, written by Jillian Kitchener; the second one was written by Rich Jaroslovsky. But readers of The National's Business section on that day would have no way of knowing who wrote the pieces, because the editors of the section (and this has been the case since the current editor took over the section) lied to those readers.

You see, both stories are bylined "The National Staff" ... and at the bottom of the pieces the email contact reads "business@thenational", followed by "with Reuters" for the first piece and "with Bloomberg News" for the latter.

What a farce. The National's Business staff added nothing at all to those pieces ... they are totally copied and pasted from those wires; all of the work was done by the original writers, and they received no credit from their brethren at the "NY Times of the Middle East."

This is unethical, shady, sloppy and simply ridiculous. But the practice is daily routine in that section.

Sad, pathetic. If anyone of any import read the paper, noticed what was in it, these practices would have stopped a long time ago. As it is, the editor of the National's Business section will be able to continue his lazy brand of journalism for as long as the paper loses money. Any editor with any integrity would never state that his section/staff wrote something that was written by someone else; indeed, in some minds, this is plagiarism.

What examples of poor ethics at The National can you share?


Anonymous said...

The bottom should have read "compiled from" instead of "with" Reuters and Bloomberg. This was for the world business section, as far as I can tell - and most newspapers compile biz-related foreign news from the wires. But I'm not defending the national. Only saying you all need to stop ranting about the paper. You're wrong to believe this government-owned paper would be any better than it is.

Anonymous said...

The pieces were copied and pasted by "The National Staff"!

Anonymous said...

Oh, yawn. "Newspaper fails to make incontrovertably clear copy was by wire services, horror - thousands riot in streets."

Anonymous said...

The National in using paid-for wire service shock. It's common practice when a paper has to have a byline but it is not deemed suitable to give one to a particular agency guy as it's mash-up of various articles.

Many papers elsewhere in the world routinely take agency copy and either don't credit it or run under their own bylines.

If there was a National reporter's name I'd buy the plagiarism line. This, however, is just sour grapes from one idiot. Christ, the Gulf News used to routinely run press releases verbatim under "Staff report".

Anonymous said...

Well at least they're not tapping peoples phones (NI) or making stuff up (Johann Hari). Admittedly the newsroom lacks leadership and there are far too many bonkers women in charge of keyboards it has yet to plunge the depths occupied by Gulf News.

Anonymous said...

Well, here's something they won't be covering. C&P or not. It may be public knowledge but I've just seen it on Wikileaks.

Apparently Sheikh Issa has tortured many more people - no surprise there - but there is video footage waiting to be released. According to the US cable:

"The Nabulsis have sued Sheikh Issa in
Texas over a business dispute, and their attorney Anthony Buzbee
has publicly threatened to release more video purportedly showing
Sheikh Issa torturing 25 other victims. "

This is from last year. Was anything released?

Anonymous said...

To those who have left The Notional - Take a look at this Slate piece - what would you write? Just curious....

Anonymous said...

01 September, 2011 03:30 and 03 September, 2011 14:43, you are both direly misinformed about the instances under discussion. The pieces were run in the National AS they were written (though one was shortened). They were not compiled, and they were not added to or "improved" by National Staff. Other, more responsible publications ran the same pieces, and did the right thing: they gave the writers their deserved bylines. Period, case closed. I can only surmise that the authors of the two posts I refer to above are British. Do yourselves a favor and enjoys your careers in the UAE, because this is as good as it gets for you and all the others of your ilk over there. You are done.

Anonymous said...

I worked at The National for a few years. My impressions of the time are mixed.

One one hand, the paper truly was not professional. Newland was not really a friend of most of the staff he whipped into believing they could do anything -- he spent long periods of time away from the office even when he was supposedly in charge, and did not take care of brewing disfunction in the office. The paper took an even greater turn for the worse under Fattah, who asked the staff to meet him for lunches to get their advice on how to improve the place, but succeeded in making almost everyone I worked with think that he could fire them for no good reason or at the very least completely ignore them. The domestic news and business sections were run in a similar way, which I have to think is because of the example and direction set at the top by Fattah, even though the hubris displayed by Ashby and Doran in the business section would suggest they themselves are comfortable in an unprofessional, aggressive setup.

Although the money was wonderful and I was lucky in that my personal work rarely required me to compromise my personal ethics, unlike many colleagues, it was very hard to deal with the attitudes. The overwhelming arrogance, lack of clear goals or leadership, and inability to see how my career would be helped by staying at The National are the major reason why I ultimately quit. Of course there is censorship and inefficiency -- this is the Middle East -- but those are not actually the underlying problems. Censorship and inefficiency are issues with media worldwide to varying degrees, as the Slate article that someone posted above seems to support.

That is the bad side of things. On the other hand, I made many friends during my time at The National. I still keep in touch with people I met there and I check back with this blog regularly because I care about them, even though what is said here is not so personally relevant as it once was. Also, the experience and resume boost I got by working with the people in the room has been invaluable, even if nobody outside the UAE really seems to care about ADMC or The National. It really does make a difference.

My advice to anyone considering work at The National is to go for a year and use that time to leverage contacts and move up to a "real" publication or into a new field altogether. It's really not worth staying longer unless you need the money, which is fine, but the lack of morale and isolation people experience at The National is something you'd have to be very careful to not let affect you, and yes, All the money in the world cannot make up for one's dignity and personal happiness.

Last notes:

1. I know many people complain about Laura Koot, but I never had a problem with her personally and actually she helped me with some problems, even though I never considered a friend and still do not. Not to say that anyone else's experience is not valid or relevant, but I think mine is also valid and relevant and should be taken on board before forming an opinion of her.

2. Whoever is running this blog, thank you, because if it wasn't for people like you we would not be able to discuss many things freely that we should be able to as adults and employees. For better or worse, this blog not only facilitated our seeing through the lie that The National claims to be, it galvanized many of us in leaving because we realized we were not alone. Although some people might be disappointed in the flight of talent from The National, I for one am better off for joining the exodus.

Anonymous said...

Now it's on Romenesko:

Anonymous said...

Those making this complaint have obviously never worked for a UK national paper. Let me fill you in.

It's standard practice to take wire copy from the Press Association, rewrite it and publish it without credit under a reporter's byline.

Rightly or wrongly, it's widespread. It's not even plagiarism. The contract between the paper and the agency allows for this sort of thing.

You can read Flat Earth News, by Nick Davies. In his analysis, some 60 per cent of stories in UK daily newspapers are rewrites in this way.

The National's business section, which credits the agency and doesn't put a reporter's byline is pretty much the pinnacle of honesty in comparison.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

With all due respect, we are talking about a Newspaper with only 10,000 readers. If it was one of the top 10 UAE newspapers, this would be a big issue but this is just a fledgling organisation trying to learn how to run a newspaper.
Gulf News commits dozens of journalistic atrocities every day and people actually read it!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Ah ... The National.
The best of the worst, as some might say.

"20:03" - Fair play to defend Koot. She did help people in her glorified secretarial role.
But overall, she just wasn't a good manager because she played clear favorites and she was not a people person. She was the kind of person who wears bug-eyed shades all the way in from the street until she enters and closes the door on her glass office. Oh the irony.

She just shouldn't be a managing editor, that's all.
She is a designer who ordered some chairs, and then Newland promoted her.

Anonymous said...

@22:03- That's sweet. I just log on for a good laugh.

Anonymous said...

Press Association (PA) is a slightly special case, though. It was originally an amalgamated service, owned by papers themselves, aimed at stopping newspapers having to duplicate court reporting, city reporting and other basic news reporting features. From what I recall from my time on regionals and nationals, there was no requirement to credit PA stories -- and PA certainly never protested -- and, usually, a fake journalist name was established to byline PA pieces.

The National is guilty of far greater sins than pissing around with wire copy attributions.

Dxb729 said...

It's rampant in the region, why would national be any different

Anonymous said...

Plagiarism at the National? What about Time Out plagiarising itself?

Here's James Alexander talking Dubai's deathly dull food scene in 2011

"“Dubai is shaping up to be the culinary capital of the world,” said James Alexander, Editorial Director of Time Out GCC. “With regular high profile openings, and more than a thousand restaurants spanning the spectrum of world cuisines, the food scene here in Dubai only gets more exciting. Our awards celebrate the best of the best across 21 award categories, with decisions based on strict criteria that take into account the whole dining experience, from the quality of the ingredients and the skills of the chef, to the service, atmosphere and value for money.”

and here he is in 2011

“Dubai is shaping up to be the culinary capital of the world,” said James Alexander, Editorial Director of Time Out GCC. “With continued high profile openings, and more than a thousand restaurants spanning the spectrum of world cuisines, the food scene here in Dubai only gets more exciting. Our awards celebrate the best of the best across 21 award categories, with decisions based on strict criteria that take into account the whole dining experience, from the quality of the ingredients and the skills of the chef, to the service, atmosphere and value for money.”

With writing talent like that on offer in Dubai who needs to ever leave?

Anonymous said...

@04 September, 2011 20:34

The release of the National Salaries trumps all of them.

You can try to trace this ip but I'm behind TOR and two proxies.

Yeah, I got the salaries, and yes I shared them with lot's of the staff, but I didn't post them to Wikileaks.

I also have a ton of their financials. You all would shit yourselves to see what they are losing year over year. And, my source is still active. I never obtained them illegally and I can't say how I got them to protect a person still in the country, but you all would shit if you saw how much they are losing.

But, since I have friends who still work there, I'm never, ever going to release those. The last thing I want is for them to be out of a job.