He was derided as the symbol of unethical journalism in the ‘cut and paste’ age for lifting passages from the work of others to embellish his copy. Having made a name for himself by criticising the wrongs of others, the industry was never going to give him a sympathetic hearing once he was found out.
I don’t have sympathy for him either, but the rest of the media is in no position to crow about this practice in my view; what, after all, does that make the press releases regularly published at all levels of the media? It isn’t plagiarism in the sense that Hari’s activity was, sure. But it is little more than ‘cut and paste’ reporting in many respects.
There are a couple of things recently that have brought this subject closer to home for me and added to my suspicion that this becoming more common.
I can only imagine the reaction of former Johnson Press colleagues when absorbing recent messages from their chief executive Ashley Highfield about the future of the papers they work for.
The ambition to make local news a successful digital product has been talked about for more than a decade, but no regional publisher has yet to make money in this area. So one could be forgiven some scepticism when hearing lines about creating ‘platform neutral’ newsrooms. Mumsnet even gets a mention.
The recent decision by the Communities and Local Government Select Committee to reject Eric Pickles‘ proposals to restrict the publication of council newspapers has reopened a debate on the role such publications should play.
In one corner is the Government, which is strongly critical of councils spending public funds on ‘town hall pravdas’ that they see as little better than propaganda magazines. They are supported by regional and local newspaper publishers who cite them as a threat to their businesses because some charge advertising revenue and publish weekly editions, putting them in direct competition with their papers. Publications like H&F Newsand East End Life (both published by London authorities) are cited of evidence of this trend.
A recent post by Jon Slattery has confirmed what I have been hearing about the continuing problems at my old employers, the Sheffield Star. He reports that staff are balloting to strike next week over plans to cut yet more editorial numbers from an already overstretched newsroom.
I left the paper in 2004, and ballots were taking place then (at that time, it was over pay: strike action was avoided). Nearly seven years and two editors later, it appears that conditions have got worse. Recent stories about painful cock-ups caused by a new production system (see picture, right) have added to the frustration.
Welcome to the ‘chaos theory’ of government – The Observer The Observer takes an in-depth look at the Government’s Big Society and localism policies, framed around a recent debate where Conservative MP Nick Boles suggested that ‘chaos’ would be more effective than top-down government. In the end, his comments appear to be little more than an expression of the belief that, if power is devolved to local communities, there will be many different approaches to service delivery rather than ‘one size fits all’. That is quite different from the ‘we want to unleash chaos’ piece carried elsewhere on The Observer website. People can watch a video of the debate here.