Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Journalistic standards at the Jerusalem Post

Take a look at the article on Tu B'Av (which is today) in Wikipedia.

Then take a look at this article by Yonatan Sredni (well, not really) in today's Jerusalem Post. [Cached version available here.] (The identical article also appears here on Arutz-7.)

Lazy kids in elementary school sometimes get caught doing this sort of thing on their homework, but one might have expected somewhat higher ethical standards from a professional newspaper. Apparently, that would have been expecting too much...

The funniest part of all: In the byline, Sredni is billed as having "an MA in creative writing from Bar-Ilan University". That's rich.

UPDATE: In case you thought this might have been nothing more than a momentary lapse of editorial professionalism by the Jerusalem Post: A couple minutes of googling shows that the Post — and Arutz-7 — have been publishing articles that Sredni has plagiarized from Wikipedia for some time now. A few examples:

On Lag B'Omer: On Shavuot: On Yom Yerushalayim: On the 17th of Tammuz: A pretty sad commentary on the editorial standards of the the Post and Arutz-7.

UPDATE: Not long after I wrote this post, the JPost took down Yonatan Sredni's Tu B'Av article. You can see a cached version of it here, however. The other plagiarized articles that I listed are still up (as of this writing.)

Arutz-7, meanwhile, has not taken down any of the plagiarized articles. Furthermore, they blocked publication of the comments I posted pointing out that the articles were plagiarized.

UPDATE: I was asked (quite legitimately) by a commenter if we can be certain that Sredni indeed plagiarized, since it is theoretically possible that he authored the Wikipedia articles in question. The first answer is that I ruled this out by checking the history pages for the Wikipedia articles, and saw that the various sections in question were authored by different users.

But if there remained any doubt, it was removed after a reader wrote a talkback on Sredni's Tu B'Av article, pointing out that much of the text was lifted directly from Wikipedia. Sredni replied to this in a talkback of his own, openly admitting that he copied from Wikipedia -- and arguing that this was actually OK, since he wrote the remainder of his article all by himself. (Yes, really. Follow the links to see for yourself.)

UPDATE: An additional note: As noted above, the Jerusalem Post has taken down Sredni's most recent copy-and-paste job (the Tu B'Av article). Amazingly, however, they have allowed all his other plagiarized articles (see the list above for a bunch that I found) to remain up on their website, unmodified. There can hardly be a louder confirmation than this of the Post's lack of editorial professionalism — and its lack of shame.

Even worse is Arutz-7. They have not removed the Tu B'Av article, or any of the others. They are fully aware of the fact that those articles are plagiarized — because I posted two comments saying so, in which I provided the links to the Wikipedia articles that Sredni copied from. Their reaction to this was not to remove any of the plagiarized articles (even the current one), nor was it to modify them with appropriate statements of attribution. Instead, they chose to respond to my comments by censoring them, so that no one should see them.

Shame on Arutz-7, and shame on the Jerusalem Post.

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael טובה הארץ מאד מאד


Rona Michelson said...

The Jerusalem Post asked permission to use an article I had written on my blog. What was published was so embarrassing that I didn't tell even my family it was published. Someone who didn't know the subject, grammar, or punctuation so slaughtered the article that one could picture it having been taken home to a third grader as a fun project... (The third grader needs to go into a different field).

realRightWinger said...

What do you care if they copied it ....

Lurker said...

realRightWinger: What do you care if they copied it ....

I suppose the JPost and A7 rely on attitudes like yours. Hey, sure, why not? Why shouldn't everyone copy-and-paste someone else's work and publish it under their own name? Never mind that it's illegal.

If you seriously believe that plagiarism is OK (and I hope you weren't serious), even in the context of a professional publication for which one is paid, then I would refer you the famous statement of R. Hanina in T.B. Megilla 15a about the importance of citing the source for the things one says (and writes, kal v'homer), and Rav Moshe's psak in Igrot Moshe regarding cheating and plagiarism as as issurim d'oraita.

Erachet said...

I think the JPost article from today has been taken down. At least, it wasn't there when I clicked on the link.

realRightWinger said...

I wasnt saying plagerism is ok - I just don't care if he copied it. From my point of view, if I get the info from Jpost or WikiPedia - I don't really care - so long as I get the info. What do you want him to do - write a bibliography ? Come on - there are more important things that are happening here. -
so he copied Wikipedia - big deal - so he stole it - big deal (not sure if copying from Wikipedia counts as stealing as I doubt there are copyright laws on it ) -
If the Post are stupid enough to pay him for it - let them -

Commenter Abbi said...

Yeah, RRW! There are so many more important thing going on here- ethics, morals, common decency just stand in our way!

What a macho right winger you are! Good thing you're defending a Jew's right to live in his land! Because, you know, who cares if the core moral and ethical essence of what it means to be a Jew (and a decent human being, for that matter) is being trampled on. At least we are defending that last freaking outpost!

Thanks for clearing all that up RRW! You know, it gets really tiresome to have to constantly worry about whether I'm doing the right thing, being careful not to steal even another person's words. I'm glad you're giving out free dispensations from the mitzvah not to steal.

Thanks again! Have a great day!

pp said...

RRW- Don't you care about who is feeding you your information and whether it is reliable?

I don't think a post pointing out blatant plagiarism, (and bringing to attention how the standards of English-language Israeli journalism are slipping) is less important than anything else posted on this blog.

Not every post has to be about politics... Lurker's informed and well-written pieces are a rare treat between the regular barrage.

ehwhy said...

Are you certain that he is not the author of the Wikipedia articles?

RivkA with a capital A said...

he is not the author of the wikipedia articles in any of those cases -- you can see who publishes/adds to/edits articles in wikipedia -- check it out.

Lurker said...

ehwhy: Are you certain that he is not the author of the Wikipedia articles?

That's a reasonable question, and it occurred to me when I first noticed the identical text. So when I checked the various Wikipedia articles that I cited, I looked at those articles' history pages, and saw that the copied sections in the various articles were each written by different users -- indicating with near certainty that they couldn't have all been written by Yonatan Sredni.

If there was any remaining doubt, it was then removed: A talkbacker wrote a comment on Sredni's Tu B'Av article, pointing out that much of the text was lifted directly from Wikipedia. Sredni replied to this in a talkback of his own, admitting that he copied it out of Wikipedia -- and arguing that this was actually OK, since he wrote the other half of his article all by himself(!)

The Jerusalem Post has now taken the page down (including the links to the talkbacks), but if I can find it in the Google cache, I'll post it.

Lurker said...

realRightWinger: Come on - there are more important things that are happening here.

The fact that I take an interest in a particular issue does not mean that I fail to take interest in others -- whether they are more important, or less. The varying topics that I have posted on here ought to indicate that pretty clearly.

That's part of being a well-rounded person (which I try to be).

Jewish Odysseus said...

I've noticed a DRAMATIC decline in the JPost's standards in the past 5-6 years...Seems like a rising tide of mediocrity has flooded the place!

I only hope Caroline Glick finds a raft (she alone remains worth reading)

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you're following this story.

Not only did Sredni plagiarize these articles, but in the comments section of the JPost piece you mention--before it was removed--he wrote in admitting it, but insisting it was no big deal since he only plagiarized the "information" but the opinion about the information was his own! Chutzpah!

I won't respond to those who think that plagiarism--stealing someone else's words and thoughts--is okay. All Sredni needed to do was to preface the stolen sections with "As it says on Wikipedia..." and it would have been fine. But then it would have been obvious how little work he put into those essays.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Lurker, I missed your post about this! Incredible, isn't it!

Anonymous said...

Why am I not surprised? Standards have definitely dropped at the JPost, some articles sound like they were written for a high-school newspaper, dumbing down is a real phenomenon. But my gripe with the JPost regards censorship of comments to many of these brain-dead articles. I would guess that more than a third of my comments are not posted, particularly if they have to do with Islam or the Israeli Arab minority. JPost evidently prefers not to ''offend'' in good dhimmi fashion & any blunt talk about Israeli Arabs is treated similarly, the policy being ''keep your head in the sand'' .....
So, plagerism is only part of the problem at the JPost

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

PP and Abbi: Now you see why Lurker's on staff here at the Muqata.

(And yes, I will make a concerted effort to diversify the posting here...see today for example)

Lurker said...

Jewish Odysseus: I only hope Caroline Glick finds a raft (she alone remains worth reading)

Sarah Honig is also very much worth reading.

Jewish Odysseus said...

Lurker, you're right, I stand corrected. Sarah Honig is excellent.

Anonymous said...

Guilty as charged! I learned my lesson.

1. Yes, I copy and pasted information (ok, a lot of info) from Wikipedia).

2. I should have either cited Wikipedia or better yet, used 'my own words'.

3. I did not do it with intent to steal, I was simply lazy (as other talkbackers point out).

'Et chataii ani mazkir hayom' - ok, I feel better? Do you? I learned my lesson and will make a distinct effort to be more careful in the future when using sources (will be careful to site them or better yet, 'use my own words' and not someone elses.

I don't blame the J.Post for removing it from their site, they did what they had to do. Again, thanks to those who called my attention to it (that I really made a mistake by taking 'source' material and not citing it or paraphrasing it). My bad.

I won't comment on the editorial decisions of publications (that's their call).

As many of you said, 'who cares', but I learned my lesson. No prior intent to do anything illegal here, just was lazy. It's almost chodesh Elul, let's forgive and move forward.

And if you can get past the Wikipedia stuff, notice the articles are pretty well written.

Anyway, this apology is 'original' - no material was copied from elsewhere - I promise.

Shabbat Shalom and Chodesh Tov!

Yonatan Sredni

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