July 01, 2004

Foreign correspondent, serial plagiarist

The Stockholm Spectator launches with an article that's been gestating there for some time: An exposÈ of the plagiarizing ways of Peter Borgstrˆm, the New York correspondent of Dagens Nyheter (Sweden's NYT). While I think the preamble is superfluous, and the tone too strident, and the "we" a bit misleading on the part of its single author Michael Moynihan in an article about press ethics, the charges certainly do stick, in my opinion.

There are other instances of polyglot expat bloggers ankle-biting major dailies for the wayward ways of their lazy foreign correspondents. Kaleboel, a great blog by a Northern Irishman in Barcelona, has had a long-running and entertaining pitched battle with La Vanguardia over their London-based plagiarist Rafael Ramos, for example. Unlike in the US, however, where a week's campaigning by Andrew Sullivan or Matt Drudge can fell the mightiest, here in Europe editors and ombudsmen still see bloggers as bizarre outsiders to circle wagons against, instead of as useful whistleblowers or canaries in proverbial coalmines.

One response I've heard by jaded media types is that while reprehensible, plagiarism is what foreign correspondents are expected to perform. Borgstrˆm's crime, apparently, is not sufficiently erasing the telltale signs of his writing's provenance. But why can't Dagens Nyheter just translate NYT articles and give them credit? They could save a lot of money by sacking Borgstrˆm. Is the prestige of a local byline so important that it is worth stealing for? That others do it too is not a reason to join them, but to expose them.

Posted by Stefan at 12:00 PM GMT
Comments
#1

am i a jaded media type? i guess i am. clearly if a guy is stealing quotes and translating them into another language that is beyond the pale. however, all foreign correspondents are 'inspired' by local media. seeing what's being covered is part of the job. the point is you maybe take the idea but you do your own legwork and write your own piece. i constantly see a two or three day lag as stuff filters over from the Anglo-Saxon media into German language publications. it goes the other way but often takes longer. bernstein, the ny times man in berlin is notorious slow. he covers items 18 months after they've made the newscycle in Germany.

Posted by: Marc on July 1, 2004 03:29 PM
#2

Stefan,
To someone well-versed in the media world, yeah, the first bit is superflous. But most people I have spoken to don't understand that what Borgstrˆm did was wrong. As for the "we" bit: you are assuming that I was the only person involved in writing this story. This is not the case. Even it if it were the case, the use of personal pronouns doesn't constitute an ethics violation. Too strident? Well, you might be right about that...Thanks for the plug.

Michael

Posted by: Michael Moynihan on July 1, 2004 06:52 PM
#3

DN Sweden's NYT? I make it the Arizona Star.

Posted by: opie on July 2, 2004 10:07 AM
#4

Fredrik Virtanen (Aftonbladet) regularly does this, even rewriting satirical articles as fact. Do a search on Mediekritik.nu on his name, and you'll find some of it.

Posted by: John E Thelin on July 4, 2004 01:08 PM