Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Whip: Imitation, Flattery or Something Worse?

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Not in newspapers it ain't...A reader has kindly sent me this search from Lexis Nexis.

March 25, Evening Standard City diary: VULGAR joke of the week: What is the difference between Heather Mills McCartney and Northern Rock? One has £25 million, is a bit wobbly and screws old people with lots of savings. The other is a bank.

March 26, The Sun's Whip Column: THE Whip is contacted by a reader with this joke. What is the difference between Heather Mills and Northern Rock? One has £25million, is a bit wobbly and screws old people with lots of savings. The other is a bank.
The charitable side if me puts this down to unhappy coincidence. The uncharitable side of me notices that the two items appear word for word.When students copy from websites it's called plagiarism. What's it called when diary columns do it? Answers on a postcard to The Editor, The Sun, Wapping.


Anonymous said...

To be fair to the Sun (why?)
they said it was via a reader and there's no proof that it wasn't.

Whether cutting and pasting amounts to plagiarism depends on context. Passing on a joke without claiming ownership hardly counts. Why waste the time and effort of re-typing? It's no different to forwarding an email.

As Dr Johnson said of pointless activity:

"Not only in the slumber of sloth, but in the dissipation of ill directed industry, is the shortness of life generally forgotten."

I found that using google search terms: 'Dr Johnson' 'quote' and 'laziness' and then cut & pasted it here.

Anonymous said...

It isn't plagiarism when you make it clear that the story is a quote and not original.

In this case it was probably passed on to the Sun by a Standard reader. The Sun columnist may have been unaware that it had already appeared in the Standard. I wonder if the Standard acknowledged the source.

Anonymous said...

It's called 'heir to blairism'.

Ho hum.


Unknown said...

To be fair there is an obvious explanation. Not so long ago jokes spread virally through word of mouth, so you would expect to hear slightly different versions of the same topical joke.

Now jokes are spread by email, so the version that you get from a friend in Edinburgh is exactly the same, word for word, to the version I get from Sussex.

That said, it is funny to think that the MSM think that they got this joke in their inbox but no one else has heard it.

Anonymous said...

The Standard reader prob forgot where they'd seen it. Maybe a freelance hack who heard it on the grapevine some days later and flogged to the Whip. Either way, the Whip credits another source. But perhaps they ought to cuts check a bit better

Anonymous said...

My French Lit tutor at university said that two students working together was cheating, but three students collaborating counted as research.
Never got a grant for it though.

Anonymous said...

Hmm.. but it is difficult to 'copyright' a joke. And I'm sure that you do a fair bit of 'recycling', with it has to be said, a bit more subtlety, brio and elan..

p.s. can we pleeeeaaazze lose that facile 'coming up next on Iain Dale' when the stuff doesn't 'come up soon' or indeed has already happened.

It is just a bit silly.

Anonymous said...

You've already established (at some length) that The Whip is crap.

Do you really need to labour the point?

Chris Paul said...

Both of them were repeating a rather ancient joke.

I'd guess either the same stringer fed both columns - which is a no-no for the responsible and mature, or it was just flirting about as a text or email. Quite a lot of columns in papers don't google immediately or at all and against a daily deadline things like this slip through.

Let's blame Guido, or perhaps even Dale?!

"A reader" covers stringers as well as others.

Mr Dale is of course waging a campaign against Katherine Bergen with several such outbursts in the archive.

There are far more serious examples of lags in diaries running stories than this.

Meanwhile, don't say I never do anything for you Iain.