Excuse not believed

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Last updated on July 24th, 2017 at 08:24 am

Media Watch on Monday night accused Sydney Sun-Herald columnist Phil Gould of cut and paste plagiarism, claiming he’d lifted sections of his July 24 piece from an email reproduced at the website Greasy Spoon. And, sure enough, much of Gould’s columnwas shown to be identical to the Spoon email. “All these sentimental memories were lifted from the web and plonked into Phil’s column,” concluded host Liz Jackson. “The Sun Herald tells us it was a subbing error. Remember when we used to believe excuses like that?”

Media Watch doesn’t present a direct link to Gould’s item, however. Which is interesting, because the column includes a line citing Gould’s source:

“It reminded me of an email I received years ago, which I’ll share part of with you here”.

This led viewer Kylie to complain at the Media Watch website:

Your criticism of Phil Gould was totally unjustified.

Not so, fired back site moderator Peter McEvoy:

That sentence was added to later editions of the paper. The article originally appeared as we stated without any acknowledgement of the email.

So the fix was made (in print editions of the paper, as well as online) within hours of that first edition being published; before, presumably, Media Watch had alerted staffers to the apparent “plagiarism”. This seems to be a standard response to a sub-editing error.

It shouldn’t be difficult for the Sun-Herald to prove Gould’s innocence (if innocent he is); a pre-subbed version of his column probably remains somewhere in the paper’s files. Meanwhile … why did Media Watch conceal from viewers that subsequent versions of the Gould column ran an attribution?

Whatever. Next week’s episode should be fun, what with the inevitable attack on race-assuming David Marr.

Posted by Tim B. on 08/02/2005 at 10:51 AM
    1. Goodness, Media Watch more and more sounds like the TV version of a poorly-run student newspaper, with all the attendant inanities of giving responsibility to pretentious morons. Maybe they should rename it Lizzie and Peter’s Navel-Gazing Quarter Hour Show.

      Posted by PW on 2005 08 02 at 12:48 PM • permalink


    1. Obviously it’s somebody else’s life.

      As Woody Allen put it : And suddenly my whole life passed before my eyes. I saw myself as a kid again, in Kansas, going to school, swimming at the swimming hole, and fishing, frying up a mess-o-catfish, going down to the general store, getting a piece of gingham for Emmy-Lou. And I realise it’s not my life. They’re gonna hang me in two minutes, the wrong life is passing before my eyes.

      Posted by rhhardin on 2005 08 02 at 12:48 PM • permalink


    1. Might I suggest that the offense here isn’t plagiarism—it’s “Life was simple when I was seven!” twaddle that would embarass Andy Rooney?

      Posted by Otter on 2005 08 02 at 06:38 PM • permalink


    1. So why dont they take more interest in serial plagiarist Philip Adams?

      Posted by niobium2000 on 2005 08 02 at 07:01 PM • permalink


    1. If Gould did receive the email independantly from the Greasy Spoon site, then there was no plagiarism whatsoever. Gould was quoting a primary source, whether or not the paper added a later clarification.

      Posted by tortfeaser on 2005 08 02 at 07:45 PM • permalink


    1. Gould’s excuse sounds very plausible. If an editor took out the attribution, not realizing what it was, then Gould is exonerated and Media Watch should say, “Never mind”.

      The editor might also then apologize to Gould but if I know editors, that won’t happen.

      It would be neat if grown ups ever got involved in the Mainstream Media.

      Posted by JDB on 2005 08 02 at 07:53 PM • permalink


    1. Phil clearly failed to get straight to the heart of the issue: to understand the root causes of explosions. Instead he runs a decoy by telling us he doesn’t want his children to be blown up. But this is crafty obfuscation: in actual fact this reminiscing is exactly what brings about explosions; ice cream, lemonade, cricket… the list goes on. It’s simple cause and effect, and Phil is being deceitful in concealing this.

      But fear not, Media Watch are onto him now. He’s a marked man.

      Posted by Henry boy on 2005 08 02 at 07:53 PM • permalink


    1. Add that to MW still saying that Mark Steyn hasn’t responded to them about their concerns regarding his recent piece for the Australian. Mark Steyn has responded by offering to do a live interview, which they have declined. The fact that he hasn’t responded in a way that will not allow them to cut and paste and misrepresent him doesn’t mean that he has failed to respond.

      Posted by jpaulg on 2005 08 02 at 08:12 PM • permalink


    1. they could lead with a well known blogger who stated Morris Iemma would be premier on Monday.

      Never mind I suppose Wednesday sounds like Monday!

      Posted by Homer Paxton on 2005 08 02 at 08:47 PM • permalink


    1. Please don’t tell Liz Jackson, Homer. A mistake of that magnitude could end my career.

      Posted by Tim B. on 2005 08 02 at 08:57 PM • permalink


    1. if anyone is fair dinkum here then they would agree on two things,

      1) SMH and/or Gould should have said the e-mail should have been mentioned in earlier editions otherwise it does smell

      2) MW should have stated that the e-mail was wrote about in later editions but no explanation given for earlier editions

      Posted by Homer Paxton on 2005 08 02 at 09:18 PM • permalink


    1. I agree Homer: Both MW and SMH are carp.

      Posted by lingus4 on 2005 08 02 at 09:34 PM • permalink


    1. Phil Gould wouldn’t have survived his idyllic childhood in Queensland- he looks so much like a canetoad that someone would have run him over or whacked him with a five iron.

      Posted by Habib on 2005 08 02 at 09:35 PM • permalink


    1. Media Watch and the SMH are goldfish?

      More like hagfish I feel, being both parasitic and bottom feeding.

      Posted by Habib on 2005 08 02 at 09:38 PM • permalink


    1. I have to disagree a smidgen with some commenters. Media Watch showed that a huge chunk of the text Gould used was word-for-word identical to the ‘when I was 7’ twaddle.

      Merely mentioning where material came from doesn’t mean you can then quote the whole thing as if you’re simply relating the substance of your source.

      You must substantially re-write it or paraphrase it in such a way as makes clear to the reader what material is yours and what is from the source. The alternative, if that’s too much work, is a giant blockquote.

      Using a source verbatim without the clarifying strategy I mentioned – and in lieu of blockquoting – is still plagiarism.

      Posted by C.L. on 2005 08 02 at 11:09 PM • permalink


    1. O/T Suzanne Carbone says in today’s garbAge (page 24) that Steve Bracks had to break his promise to not toll the eastern freeway. No rationale, no numbers, no nothing. A highly debatable statement but Bracks is infallible at The garbAge.

      Posted by lingus4 on 2005 08 02 at 11:10 PM • permalink


    1. Bolt’s response to Media Jihad is brilliant:

      Aunty the apologist

      Posted by Art Vandelay on 2005 08 03 at 12:19 AM • permalink


    1. Media Watch has chosen to play a political game rather than an intellectual one. Fine. But when a clapped out hack like Peter McEvoy takes my money to do it he should have the decency to come up with something better than this. Does working at the ABC mean people deposit half their brain at the door or something?

      And btw, Liz Jackson should stop trying to be Stuart Littlemore. Littlemore could actually deliver one liners with a sneer backed by an IQ higher than his shoe size. Little Liz by contrast comes off as a 15-year-old up-herself private schoolgirl out to save her inferiors. Oh, hang on…

      Posted by Hanyu on 2005 08 03 at 01:03 AM • permalink


    1. Another difference between Littlemore and Jackson is that Littlemore wouldn’t go you purely for thought crime, he’d show you up as having done something genuinely wrong professionally and thought crime.

      Posted by jpaulg on 2005 08 03 at 02:05 AM • permalink


    1. On a related subject, something which has been bugging me for a few days:

      Just after the Shuttle launch the ‘News Hour with Jim Lehrer’ had a segment discussing the pros and cons of the Shuttle program. In the w/e Australian following that programme, Robert Lusetich wrote an article which was basically an unattributed cut, shuffle, and paste of that programme. The only real difference was that whereas the NHJL was a balanced discussion, RL rewrote it as a sneering attack on the worth of the Shuttle.

      A couple of things:

      1. What’s the point of a Los Angeles correspondent whose research could eqaully well have been done from a sofa in Brisbane?

      2. Is this the sort of thing that MW should have a problem with?

      (Sorry, no links. I can’t afford the subscription to the archives.)

      Posted by SteveGW on 2005 08 03 at 02:20 AM • permalink


    1. Steve if you an supply us with dates, I’m sure Nick and I, as well as some of the other commentators here will be able to get some links or at least transcipts.

      As to your questions:
      1. Two words – Jayson Blair
      2. Yes


      Posted by The Thin Man Returns on 2005 08 03 at 02:26 AM • permalink


    1. Nora:

      The weekend in question was the one just gone, I think (ie. 30/31 June.) The News Hour programme must have been no more than a couple of days before that. (Note that Australia gets NH a day later than the US, but then we’re a day ahead of them, so … I dunno exactly.)

      Posted by SteveGW on 2005 08 03 at 02:38 AM • permalink


    1. Correction; July.

      Posted by SteveGW on 2005 08 03 at 02:41 AM • permalink


    1. Hi Steve is this the Australian article?.

      I’m about to search for the News Hour with Jim Lehrer piece unless someone has beaten me to it.


      Posted by The Thin Man Returns on 2005 08 03 at 02:46 AM • permalink


    1. I think I’ve found it here.

      And I found some lazy lifting of quotes from the NBC web sitehere.

      Don’t forget the journalist’s maxim: ‘Steal from one source is plagarism, stealing from many is research.’*


      *Phrase used without attribution, no small animals were harmed.

      Posted by The Thin Man Returns on 2005 08 03 at 03:06 AM • permalink


    1. Steve,
      You can read a comparison of some the passages here.

      Posted by The Thin Man Returns on 2005 08 03 at 04:01 AM • permalink


    1. Nice work Nora. I’m actually uncertain about this, but I think that even if this isn’t unethical in the sense of strict plagiarism – because he did do some minimal work on the content – his employer might be wondering what extra value he’s getting for his overseas allowances.

      Posted by SteveGW on 2005 08 03 at 04:39 AM • permalink


    1. Couldn’t Media Watch be relegated to an internal ABC audience only – since that’s about all it really appeals to. We should stop commenting about it – it only makes them feel they are doing something worthy if it gets noticed. You can just hear them going back for more funding:
      “Yes, we really proved our worth by generating discussion as evidenced by all these posts on the blogs – we are holding out against the incursions of the non-professional media … er, that is to say, by getting all these comments from the… oh shit!”

      Posted by blogstrop on 2005 08 03 at 05:03 AM • permalink


    1. #15:

      Perhaps the column’s been changed again by now, but I do see a giant blockquote of sorts around the material in question. Are you saying the repeated quote marks on each paragraph weren’t there before?

      Posted by PW on 2005 08 03 at 05:39 AM • permalink


    1. #27 Hi Steve, as Nicky points out on our site even though it’s not a wholesale lift, there should be recognition of attribution.

      What makes the issue important for MSM is the matter of copyright and what it means for the value of syndication.

      We advise our clients who are undertaking a PR campaign to remember that everything sent to any media outlet instantly becomes their property (unless negotiated otherwise).

      With that much influence it becomes important to hold journalists to account.

      From personal experience (now former) colleagues of mine who have appeared on Media Watch have not been shamed but indeed seen it as a badge of honour.


      Posted by The Thin Man Returns on 2005 08 03 at 07:15 AM • permalink


    1. In the interests of fairness – haa, haa, haa – to Media Watch they have corrected the Phil Gould piece.


      Posted by The Thin Man Returns on 2005 08 03 at 11:55 PM • permalink


    1. Media Watch negative stories targeted the following organisations by percentage:

      Ch 9:13%
      Ch 7:13%
      ABC: 11%
      unFairfacts: 7%
      2GB: 7%

      This was a quick skim, if you based this on words or time I am pretty sure News would top a third of all critical stories coming out of MW.  No wonder Lachlan resigned, he can’t stand the incompetents his dad hired!  What they actually sell lots of papers?  Oh, now I get it, we are the fools!

      Posted by platey mates on 2005 08 06 at 09:47 AM • permalink


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