Kidnapping Words & Thoughts…

If you google “define plagiarism,” the first entry by Wikipedia defines the term plagiarism as, and I quote with link included, “Plagiarism (from the Latin plagiare, “to kidnap”) is the practice of claiming, or implying, original authorship of (or incorporating material from) someone else’s written or creative work, in whole or in part, into one’s own without adequate acknowledgement.” A little more googling for “define journalist” leads to a Princeton University definition, and I quote, with link, “a writer for newspapers and magazines.” Stick with me a little longer, and google “Journalist Code of Ethics Philippines” and you will be led to this website of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, and one of their pages, with link, that describes “The Journalist’s Code of Ethics” within which, the sixth item, and I quote “I shall not commit an act of plagiarism.” Amusingly, that same google, yields an article from the Philippine Daily Inquirer, that repeats the contents of the Journalist’s Code of ethics, seen in the link, here.

When I was at university and graduate school, the issue of plagiarism was a wickedly serious matter. Classmates occasionally failed courses for mild cases of plagiarism, or were expelled from the university for serious cases, such as copying an entire paragraph from another source without attribution. So what more if a journalist commits plagiarism? What then? The reason I raise this issue this evening is plainly obvious. Last week, I wrote a post entitled “Scribes Drunk on Mangosteen,” about an article in last week’s food section of a major Philippine newspaper. After writing that article, I emailed the lifestyle section of the paper, at the address on their paper and website, I emailed the Reader’s advocate, which the paper and their website tells you to contact if you think an article has violated journalistic ethics, and I emailed another friend who used to hold a fairly senior position on the paper’s management. The friend answered immediately by email that she would forward the email to the lifestyle editor of the paper.

It has been 6 days and it is the eve of the next Food Section which will come out tomorrow. I have not heard one iota from either the lifestyle editor nor the reader’s advocate. Not even an email to acknowledge that they had received my emails and were looking into the matter and would get back to me by xxxx. A while back when this same paper published a photograph stolen from my site, at least the lifestyle editor, the same one as today, I believe, answered my emails after 4 days and they published a quasi erratum/apology in the next week’s Food issue.

I speculate here what their possible responses could be… and I am curious if anything will be in tomorrow’s food section about the issues I raised last week.

1. Deadma. Ignore the Marketmanila post, ignore the email, hope Marketman goes away and eventually send me an email if they have the minimum of manners, thanking me for alerting them to a possible issue.

2. Delay… wait at least 2-3 weeks before they address the issue, hoping it will snuff itself out. Claim there is insufficient evidence to link scribes who write with scribes who consume mangosteen.

3. Acknowledge tomorrow they forgot to source the sentence in question (in other words, a nice way of saying there was possible plagiarism), albeit in its bizarre re-incarnation (where someone didn’t understand the meaning of the new sentence) but they won’t get into the details of plagiarism at all…

4. Openly admit to a problem with that article, identify who was to blame, and mete out an appropriate sanction… haha, and the odds of this last scenario are?

If you look-up the on-line version of the article, it is STILL posted and has not been removed (my stolen photographs a few years ago were removed after about 24 hours from the internet site of the newspaper), which means they may not think there is anything to be worried about at all…but let’s see, I am curious what the leading paper will do about this issue of scribes and mangosteen, play it down and condone sloppy journalism, or nail it on the head and send an appropriate and forceful message to all of its journalists to be just a bit more vigilant and mindful of that pretty comprehensive Journalistic Code of Ethics… And the verdict is…

P.S. Here is one more link to a page that explains paraphrasing and plagiarism…in case you were curious…And if you read that link…

Maybe the next step will be for the editors and writer to then EXPLAIN where the information for the first THREE paragraphs of an earlier column by the same writer on spaghetti squash from 01 August 2007 came from. While it is substantially different from the Wikipedia write-up, it does really beg the question if the writer used Wikipedia as a source but didn’t bother to credit it either… after all, even Marketman, who has written about lots of vegetables, would normally be able to write straight off of the top of my head that spaghetti squash is an “American Native” and list out its vitamin content, and how to cook it by boiling, baking or steaming it, or could I??? Now, how many previous columns should I search back through to see if this habit is a common one…


42 Responses

  1. i’m going for possible response #3: they’ll come up with something tom which is their food issue day. it better be a damn good explanation! or else…

  2. What surprised me about plagiarism in grad school is that it’s even possible to plagiarize yourself (i.e. turning in work done for a previous class for another class) because it shows laziness of thought, lack of innovation — and you ultimately don’t learn anything new.

    It’s great that you’re being so vigilant about this cause, allowing lazy journalists and editors to carry on just encourages them to continue their sloppy work.

  3. Now I’m wondering how much of the contents of the author’s published compilation of articles are plagiarized. Glad I didn’t get a copy of that. But I’d buy copies of your book (if you decide to publish), even if it’s just a hard copy of this website, though I know you’re not that lazy.
    I can’t wait to get my hands on the paper tomorrow… much like waiting for the Sandigan Bayan verdict :)

  4. The problem here is that you have integrity, commitment, and pride in your work. These people do not. We call them scumbags and furballs or simply, dirt! You have done all. You put them on alert, you have put them on notice but watch, they will do it again and again. Clearly, they have no principles and obviously no shame bone in their bodies. Scumbags and furballs are like that. Besides, they don’t deserve any more time from you. Just know that you can sleep well at night because you provide your audience with much joy and pleasure. Incidentally, your dedication of the Tinapa post to our OFWs was simply touching.

  5. My hunch clues me the editor will let the issue dies of natural cause – vanish like vapor. You will not hear from them. The columnist in question is one of their regular contributors and has a stellar name on her own. I think up to this time the columnist is in a denial phase and she looks at you as one who sticks your nose to her own business like a devil advocates who has nothing better else to do and she gives me the same look as a commenter. She holds up a cushiony job and her editors are absorbing any hypocrisy she comes up with.

  6. not surprising at all. deadma. i suddenly remembered MM’s photographed shirt in one of his posts about a bank that reads “choose frustration over indifference”

  7. A charge of plagiarism is a botch that seriously puts into question a writer’s entire oeuvre. Any self-respecting writer should be acutely aware of that. It is truly astounding the careless arrogance of both the writer and the editors in question for ignoring an exception (from a reader) that in the olden days could have meant the end of their literary careers. What makes them so sure of themselves? A gullible and coprophagous public perhaps?

  8. Hi MM! I also checked THAT column online and nope, nada, nothing … you’re right, DEADMA sila. kaka-disappoint and kaka-inis naman …

  9. To Apicio: I had to look up that word you used – coprophagous – susme, it means (simply) eating kaka! LOL! Now THAT’s my word for the day haha this is what I about Marketmanila: I learn so many many things!

  10. MM,
    My 10 cents on this matter. I prefer to receive a simple apology that is heartfelt and uncontrived rather than coercing the offending party for an apology. You’ve said your piece, so it’s all up to the individual to do their part – to apologize or not to apologize, that is the queetion.

  11. eej, actually I don’t think the apology is for me specifically, it is for the readership of the newspaper in general… but I agree with you that acknowledging a problem is the BEST way to diffuse any situation. Ignoring it or belittling it can be worse in the long run…

  12. It happens yet again. I have commented on this issue before with great disgust. I have read articles in the two leading dailies wherein I am 100% certain that the writer lifted text, paragraph by paragraph from imported glossy magazines. Mind you, writers with so called clout, style and influence but obviously without integrity,self respect and talent.
    In a way I am glad this happened. Not happy for you of course as it must be infuriating to be plagiarized, but that it happened to an individual closer to home. They victimized someone that would be unrelenting and persist that these “journalists” , at the very least, would HAVE to offer up some sort of explanation for their actions. Maybe thats what is taking them so long to respond.. they are trying to figure out what version of the truth they think will be most acceptable without an admission of guilt!

  13. Sorry, as I was writing I was so caught up in my anger on the issue, that I remembered it wasn’t you they plagairized but from different sources.

  14. Mayabang talaga yang inquirer na yan. the paper is all about shoving their opinions, tastes and lifestyle to the Filipinos. Crazy-ass wierdo daughter of owner wants to write? Sige bigyan mo ng space! Social climbing leeches in need of a day job to promote their businesses and pay for their lifestyles that they can’t afford? Heck, give them a whole Saturday section! Columnists attacking businesses and personalities with intended malice? Hala sige! That newspaper has obviously lost its identity when the former publisher left. It’s a newspaper one read that really really shouldn’t be taken seriously.

    Besides that, their comic section sucks!

  15. MM, perhaps they mean to play deaf and dumb, to let the issue die away. Since the scribes who may or may not have consumed the mangosteen are all dead anyway…

  16. MM, you gave the Inquirer a heads up on the plaigiarism issue and we readers thank you for that. (In elementary, college and grad school, it was always impressed upon us that plagiarism was a BIG no-no and could get one a failing grade) The ball is in their court now. Even if they may not acknowledge their mistake publicly, I am hopeful that they will keep that in mind when editing future articles.

    So don’t stress over it na. You did a good thing. Conscience na nila and bahala sa kanila.

  17. What a pity. I used to look forward to this column and was actually impressed at how much knowledge the columnist had on the topics she wrote about. Then this plagiarism issue… The columnist should not be allowed to build a reputation out of plagiarized articles.

    Acidboy, i totally agree that their comic section sucks. What’s with the Carlo Caparas’ comics? i am all for promoting Filipino talents but this “to have and to hold?” Even the dialogue sucks big time. I want to start my day with a good laugh so i always read the comic section first. But with this carlos caparas comics, haay…. And as to the “crazy-ass wierdo daughter of the owner”, i remember seeing her on TV being interviewed by a local comedian, who commented that for rich people, her likes are referred to as “eccentric” but had she been poor, she would have been tagged as “may sayad.” hahaha.. .now that’s a good laugh…

  18. Wouldn’t a competing national broadsheet take this thing up to a higher level? Being a part-time college professor, I hate the fact that the Internet spawned the “copy-and-paste” generation of students. If we take plagiarism seriously in schools, shouldn’t we be as equally vigilant with a major daily read by millions?

  19. Reading that author’s article today, I can’t help but doubt if she really is “qualified” for what she’s supposed to be doing..

    I wonder now, who monitors these supposed “journalists” from their plagiarizing acts?

  20. that’s why i rarely buy the newspaper, the only instance that i buy newspaper is for the litter box of my bun and if i ever do read it. i take some with a grain of salt.
    i am still hoping that our country will greatly improve in all aspects but i’m not holding my breath on that.

  21. There is no excuse for plagiarism. It is a crime — pure and simple. The editor, writer, publisher should all go to jail for this.

  22. Ms. Em Dy,

    I agree with you. I’m saying that I am doubting whether the author is qualified to be a journalist is that because, whenever I read their articles, it does INDEED sound like an ADVERTORIAL of their feature restaurant.. I mean when you’re journalist, you can’t afford to be bias.. While the restaurants or the food that they try may be truly good and they were utterly pleased when they tried it out, I just can’t seem to believe that ALL are ALWAYS good.. Because it’s not usually the case when I try out restaurants and their food..

    Well, so much for my opinion..

  23. THANK YOU SASSY LAWYER for a LEGAL view to the issue, in your post here. At the very least, I guess I would have to alert Wikipedia and the other affected mangosteen website that their material may have been plagiarized and see if they choose to send a complaint of their own. Ultimately, the purpose of my posts is to bring awareness, and to let writers know that they can’t just write anything they please… It is unfortunate that the newspaper hasn’t responded yet and I have found another potential plagiarized portion of her column. I wonder if I go back through dozens of columns how many questionable ones I will discover. So sad that they couldn’t just do the “right” and “decent” thing in a reasonable amount of time – acknowledge the error if it was one and apologize to the reading public and assure them that it won’t happen again. How hard is that???

  24. Now, THAT is serious action plan, Marketman! Anyway, they encourage the public to be an INQUIRER, right? Hope you people have heard or seen their ads. So, go ahead!

    Zeph, I hope teachers and professors will do something about the copy – paste tendency of the new generation.

  25. As readers and to a larger extent — as consumers — this seems to happen too often. When somebody points out an error or a lapse in the paper’s information or source, instead of at least acknowledging the complaint or whatever lapse was pointed out, the publication would usually choose to ignore it. Only when the person who complained presses further (or is influential enough) will the publication issue a face-saving apology. But not after making it appear that the person who complained may simply be nitpicking.

  26. dizzy, you are right, but I don’t let go so easy. I just checked a few more columns of the same writer and I am up to 3 questionable ones which lack sources, and mostly from quick Wikipedia searches… patterns always emerge. Too bad the newspaper editors don’t nip things in the bud, shall we say… I have to formulate an email over the weekend, and copy writer, editor and publisher of the Inquirer and possibly a Board member. Then copy the Union of Journalists in the Philippines that issued the Journalist’s Code of Ethics, maybe the PCIJ for fun to see if they are willing to tackle a subject about their own tribe, and also for fun, that guy who has blown the whistle on all those errors in public school textbooks to see what he has to say…

  27. I think this publication banks on the fact that most people would “let go easily”. I have this feeling that they have deemed this complaint trivial — the article and the writer in question being in the food section. Oops, I’m not trying to fire you up some more Mr. MM. As it is, you seem to be cooking up a storm. =)

  28. Hi MM! How about writing an article on this on competitor’s broadsheet? I’m soooooo sure they would be more than willing to.

  29. That Reggie Aspiras should be fired. She does not deserve to have a column. She has no professional merit to write about anything. She is a horrible cooking teacher, which is why her school is now at her home, her recipes are horrid and her only claim to fame is that she has a food column… which should now be taken away from her!

  30. We sould all write to the Inquirer to have her taken off as a writer.

    Everyone please email the editor at:

    I don’t just want an apology, it’s not the Inquirers fault, but her column should be replaced by a more established food writer.

  31. Yes Market Man, write to the STAR and tell them about it…

    not just the star, but to all media representatives and opinion leaders. Sure Reggie deserves no fame from this, but she should be SHAMED….

  32. Yes, pretty much all her columns are like advertorials… i’m sure she gets a lot of cash and certificates or favors for plug ins. I hope she gets fired.

  33. Oh, by the way, the Inquirer reader’s advocate did her job. RA quite specifically apologized to MarketMan. I think that ended well, did it not?

  34. to be aware is to be alive…so i hope this ends with renewed respect for both sides. sigh. i also hope this DOES NOT happen again. good thing you have a voice MM and you use it well. fight! : ) oh yah…i read her article last thursday and she apologized. i hope she’s sincere. : )



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