Copycat Fight in the Newsroom

I really enjoy reading great blogs like Positive Solutions and Beijing Newspeak. Having worked in various newsrooms during my previous life as a (cough) journalist (cough, hack, spit), it’s always quite cool to get a peak into what it would be like working in a “Chinese” newsroom.

However, none of their posts ever included descriptions like this:

As I started to exit, this Liu Aixiang slapped me in the face and knocked me dizzy! When I oriented myself, she came at me again. I slapped her back but a rookie male reporter unfairly pulled me back so that I missed. Instead, Liu Aiqiang hit me in the face again. A group of people tried to mediate but they were only just putting on a show. So that was how I and Liu Aiqiang were wrestling with each other. But she was bigger and stronger than me and she kicked me a few times in the belly! Still, I managed to slap her in the face as well as give her a punch. I also scratched her in the face with my nails. But my colleagues told me later that my blows were weak and I left no marks on her face. Instead, her slap caused my face to swell under the eye.

Apparently the aggressor in the catfight works for China Times’ stock news department, and had been scouring the Internet for stories she could copy (often, verbatim) to fluff up this rag’s page count. When a fellow reporter discovered this and told her colleagues about the blatant plagiarism, word got back to Liu Aiqiang, and she went off like a firework at 6 am.

Originally from the victim’s blog, the story is translated via ESWN under the title “The Most Awesome Chinese Female Reporter Ever“. High praise for a chick that got her ass kicked.

Presumably the “awesome report” bit is given in response for the whooped reporter’s high ethics in journalism. But isn’t “Don’t Copy Other People’s Shit” tenet number one in the How To Be A Journalist manual? It was in mine. So, if that’s the standard, why the praise?

I’ve been a writer (of sorts) for almost a decade now, and echoes of high school teachers still ring in my head every time the word “plagiarism” is uttered. However, in this case, I think that might be taking it a bit too far. As this is the “stock” news department (it makes me shutter to think that most reputable newspapers also likely have some variation of this department), I’m betting all of this was written sans-byline as filler. And though this isn’t an excuse for copying someone else’s work, I think plagiarism, by definition, requires you to claim that work as your own.

More likely, it’s a high-pressure job (what newsroom isn’t?) with a publisher not a fraction as concerned about content (nor long-term reputation) as they are with ad dollars and circulation. In such an environment, when no emphasis from above is given on quality of any kind, and words are treated as makeweight to frame advertising, it’s hardly surprising people go the easy route and copy stuff from the Internet.

What this really is, of course, is a copyright/IPR issue. And wouldn’t it be great if the Chinese media was the place to start for cleaning up that monster of an issue. Eighty-percent of the news in this country would disappear overnight.

One Response

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *