Plagiarism surfaces at Lawes Road

Editorial, Normal

The National, Friday, April 29, 2011

THE “p” word is a dirty one in journalism.
Indeed, plagiarism goes against one of the most important ethics that journalists are required to uphold.
It is usually committed by persons who lack ideas, lack respect for themselves, their peers and the profession, are dishonest and shameless.
They steal the work of others and readily take the credit.
No self-respecting and credible publishing house would condone plagiarism. Doing so makes the publisher just as guilty as the writer.
Indeed, many publishers all over the world have suspended or dismissed writers who had plagiarised the work of others. Even Pulitzer Prize winners were not spared the consequences.
Some of these journalists stole only a few paragraphs for their story but still had to pay the price.
One newspaper assigned an editor and five reporters, clocking many hours, to investigate a case involving a best-selling author and columnist before finally publishing an explanation on the front page.
On April 12, we, at The National, were shocked to discover that a senior Post-Courier journalist had plagiarised the work of our photographer Ekar Keapu.
Only five days earlier (April 7), The National had published the photograph on the front page, showing four persons from Vabukori village in Port Moresby holding up four young turtles that they caught about a year ago.
The photograph carried a byline – Nationalpic by EKAR KEAPU.
The same photograph was reprinted on Page 10 of the Post-Courier on April 12, but it carried the bylines of Pukari Peni (for the photograph) and senior journalist Harlyne Joku (for the words).
We are subsequently told, through a small item in the Post, that Pukari is a young schoolgirl who had downloaded the items from
Without Pukari’s knowledge, her mum forwarded the photograph and caption to the Post which then, as the story goes, also unknowingly published the item.
In effect, Post is also admitting that Joku, a journalist of at least 20 years, had plagiarised the words of a schoolgirl.
Joku later emailed The National to say that she did not ask for the byline, that it was all done by the editors and sub-editors.
That may be true but are we supposed to believe that a six-column photo on the front page was missed by all and sundry at the Post?
However much one may dislike doing so, one of the basic rules in journalism is to read your opposition’s paper to know what they are doing. We now have to assume that at the Post, this is not practised.
The Post sought to dismiss the matter with an item in their Drum, a column that is more used to deal with gossip and matters that they consider not significant or substantial enough for news. 
Perhaps, it was the embarrassment that prompted them to hide what they deemed to be an apology.
The paper’s editor-in-chief said it was “good enough” and that all other instances of corrections and apologies have been conducted in this column.
Plagiarism is a serious matter, especially when it has happened more than a couple of times with what used to be the country’s “nambawan paper”.
If an accusation of plagiarism were ever raised with The National, we would consider it a most serious violation of journalists’ ethical code and act accordingly.
Even if the Post is no longer PNG’s bestselling newspaper by a wide margin, we sincerely believe that it should view plagiarism in the appropriate manner and deal with it accordingly.
This is not about rivalry.
Rather, it is about respecting the profession and promoting good ethics and journalism.
It is about encouraging good journalism, regardless of whether the journalist writes for your paper or the rival.
Instead, we regret to report at least three other instances of plagiarism, all involving the Post.
One of the writers has since left, after plagiarising the work of our former reporter, Sheila Lasibori.
The other offender, who plagiarised The National Supplement Editor Malum Nalu’s agriculture piece is still with the Post, occupying a senior position. 
At least one article in our Property section was also shamelessly plagiarised recently.
The editor-in-chief of the Post has claimed that they do not condone plagiarism and had sacked journalists before for doing so. That is not what we see.
Instead, the editor has accused The National of stooping “quite low in recent times to engage in this kind of mud-slinging to discredit the Post-Courier”.
Do we need to? Post seems to be doing a pretty good job itself.