Stop plagiarism in Australian journalism
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We the undersigned call upon Australian publishers to stop lifting the work of other journalists in their publications.
While we acknowledge it is common practice for journalists to follow up the work of other journalists, reusing another writer’s work without permission and without verifying the facts or adding one’s own research and interviews amounts to plagiarism.
We believe this increasingly common and unethical practice causes a multitude of harms including (but not limited to):
- Lowering the public’s trust in journalists and the media.
- Making interviewees less likely to speak out and tell important stories that are in the public interest, because they fear their stories will be repurposed and distorted by less scrupulous outlets.
- Causing distress and psychological harm to vulnerable interviewees who placed their trust in one journalist to tell their story sensitively - only to find the story sensationalised and their own words used out of context by a journalist they’ve never spoken to.
- Weakening the media’s ability to act as the community’s fourth estate and hold those with power to account, by undermining the credibility of journalists and the media.
- Decreasing the amount of information available to the public because of the net effect of commissioning fewer fresh stories.
- Contributing to a media environment where ‘fake news’ abounds and readers are unable to judge the merit of what they are reading.
- Breaching the MEAA’s code of ethics, which clearly states: "Do not plagiarise".
- Teaching young, inexperienced journalists to behave in an unethical manner and cannibalise their own industry.
- Increasing insecurity for freelance journalists who, while trying to produce quality journalism, are already operating in a tough environment where often the most important stories are the ones that require the most work and deliver the lowest financial reward.
- Costing freelance journalists financial recompense for time spent building trust, building contacts and gathering interviews.
- Subverting the Fair Dealing clause in the Copyright Act, the instrument by which all media organisations generate revenue. Subversion of this piece of legislation damages all journalists and media outlets and will ultimately result in an erosion of working conditions, revenues and the future of the media industry itself
Plagiarism weakens democracy and has a ripple effect of harm on the ability of the media and journalists to do their jobs properly. If it goes unchecked, this practice will contribute to the destruction of an industry that is vital to a fair and informed society.
We call on those outlets and journalists who participate in this unethical practice to stop immediately.
(This petition will be delivered to relevant Government ministers and politicians, the Copyright Council, the Press Council and other bodies. It was written collectively by a group of Australian freelance journalists.)
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