Recently I judged a journalism award for a large pharmaceutical company based on a very serious health issue. Most of the entries were of a very high standard and I was enjoying being educated with the latest news on the fight against this illness. That was, until I got to the final entry.
Here my ‘cheatdar' went into orbit. I'm not sure if it was the familiar release type layout that first grabbed my attention or more likely the PR speak using those well-loved words ‘latest, UNIQUE, first in the world etc. All the usual PR drivel that goes with 90% of media releases.
To his credit he did add a sentence or two all of his own to pad it out but it was still unreservedly a plagiarised (nog al) article.
This brings me again to the issue of cut and paste. An issue that's getting more serious every day.
Again, while judging a category of a well-known media award we (the other judges and myself) were all in agreement on one issue - too many magazines were relying on great chunks of information straight off the Internet covering everything from the latest green tips to how to analyse your pets' moods. It's all there for anyone to glean off the Internet!
When I started journalism (and now I sound like my granny), we relied on good old foot work. Getting off our backsides and out of the office to strange places called libraries and interviewing live people in person. We also used the wonderful archives that our media organisations all have, where you could sit, often for fascinating hours on end, poring over old articles giving you great background on stories.
Don't get me wrong - my first port of call for research is the Internet BUT I use it to lead me to sources and possible angles on my stories - not to cut and paste paragraphs of text straight in.
Used correctly, it should lead you to the right people and places for your story, enabling you to do real interviews with real experts on stories - not Joe X who commented from cyberspace about the topic you're writing on.
If we're not careful, real investigative journalism and issue story writing will disappear, to be replaced with pure cut-and-paste straight off the 'net. In other words, second- or third-hand words - just not good enough.
[17 May 2010 12:25]
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