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New survey launched into press “plagiarism”

A survey is being launched into the phenomenon of “cut-and-paste journalism” within the media amid rising concern over “plagiarism.”

Although regional newspaper journalists regularly complain of their stories being lifted by news agencies and national titles, little actual research has been done into the practice.

Now HoldtheFrontPage readers are being asked to contribute to an online survey designed to find out how widespread it is – and how the journalists affected feel about it.

The survey can be accessed here.

Mark Blacklock of Newcastle University, who is carrying out the survey, says concern over “text re-use” has been growing since the advent of the internet.

“One journalist I’ve already spoken to described the frustration of seeing his local evening paper hit the streets and any decent stories in it reproduced – sometimes word for word – on a national news website within 20 or 30 minutes,” he told HTFP.

One recent case involved a news agency from Southampton which carried out an interview with the parents of murdered Bristol landscape architect Jo Yeates.

The story was used in the Southern Daily Echo before being reproduced on the Press Association newswires.  PA later claimed it acted “in good faith” over the story.

Said Mark:  “A neutral word for what is happening is text re-use, and that’s what I prefer to use. Others might call it plagiarism – copying stories without checking or acknowledgement – or syndication, where an agreement exists between a local paper and, say, a freelance agency.

“I’m trying to find out how widespread the phenomenon is and the reasons behind it. I’d like to know from staff reporters how they feel about it and whether they consider it legitimate, from freelances agencies about how it affects them, and from editors, who are in the position of either selling stories on or receiving them.

“Aside from legal issues I think it might also raise wider issues about how we regard journalism in this country.

“Are attitudes towards ‘lifting’ copy today different to attitudes in the past? Is syndication no more than plagiarism, or does the existence of an agreement legitimise the process? What about those who take material without the original author’s consent or knowledge – ‘ripping’ it straight from the locals?”

The survey link will remain live until the end of June.   It has been are configured in such a way that all responses are annonymised.

Mark is urging anyone who wants to talk in depth about any aspect of the survey to get in touch with him.  His contact details are on the survey site.