Tuesday, 22 March 2011

'Shamelessly ripped off'

The latest issue of SF Weekly - a publication based in San Francisco - has a cover story about how 'illegal immigrants find that being a crime victim is their best ticket to citizenship' thanks to something called the 'U-visa'.

That article, written by Lauren Smiley, was published on 16 March.

Four days later, the Daily Mail ran an article headlined 'The 'crime visa': How 18,000 illegal immigrants got legal status by being the victim of a crime' which was 'written' by their Daily Mail Reporter.

And Smiley and the SF Weekly are not amused by the Mail's effort:

This was actually our cover article on U visas, shamelessly ripped off and plastered on the website of the wildly successful British tabloid newspaper the Daily Mail.

This is an example of "churnalism" at its most depraved -- the story's byline reads only "Daily Mail Reporter," as if the anonymous hack couldn't bear to fess up to his or her lack of originality. The article proceeds to rephrase our sentences, lift our quotes verbatim, and even write snappy sidebars about the visa-seeking San Francisco-based immigrants -- Rosa Aguilar and Adolfo Lopez, you've gone international! -- profiled in our original story.

Check out our story versus theirs for yourself: There is absolutely no original reporting in the entire Daily Mail piece. Apparently the reporter thought he or she was absolved via a quick "SFWeekly.com reports" in the 18th paragraph. No link or anything. Wow, thanks.

Smiley then highlights a couple of other cases of Mail articles that look suspiciously like articles from other publications, before concluding:

It seems U visas are a topic that appealed to the paper's conservative, anti-immigrant editorial stance; the Mail's editors have been called to answer in the past by the British Parliament's human rights committee about critical coverage of asylum seekers...

C'mon, guys: All we're asking for is some link love and heavy attribution high up in the story. Then go ahead and take what you want. To borrow a British expression, what the Mail did -- it's just not cricket.

(Big hat-tip to Malcolm Armsteen at the Mailwatch Forum)


  1. Thing is, I see this happening all the time. You can always find the same stories, verbatim, on different news outlets. For example, I forget exactly which game it was, but either a football match report or the rugby match report was identical in the Telegraph and on the BBC website on Saturday evening.

    It strikes me that there's no legal framework for internet plagiarism.

    And I ADORE the 'Daily Mail Reporter'. He/She really deserve their own website, such is the inanity of the reportage.

    My particular favourite 'Reportism' so far concerns some skiier who fell off a mountain, a mountain that was......wait for it....'rock-infested'.

  2. That's amusing - if you're a reporter on a UK paper, and your story is lifted by the Daily Mail you're usually quite pleased if they put an "x reports" credit for your publication in the 18th par. Frequently they and other papers don't do so at all (the Guardian, suprisingly, if sometimes as guilty as the DM).

    Often it isn't the reporter's fault, incidentally - subeditors seem to have a knack of removing attributions.

    It's amazing how much copying-and-pasting happens in the UK dailies that would get US reporters fired. Jason Blair's work, that shocked the New York Times, would be considered standard practice here.


Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.

Comments are moderated - generally to filter out spam and comments wishing death on people - but other messages will be approved as quickly as possible.