Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Private Eye on the Telegraph's plagiarized obituary of Marvin Meyer

This week's Private Eye (issue 1322, for 7 September 2012) has a feature on The Telegraph's plagiarized obituary of Marvin Meyer (see Plagiarism in the Telegraph's Obituary of Marvin Meyer, exposed here last week).  If you are in the UK, the issue is in the shops now and you will find the article on p. 27 under the subheading "Gospel Truth".

The article is nicely done, with due credit to Todd Brewer who first spotted the plagiarism, and a mention of me and my blog.  I particularly liked this sentence in the closing paragraph:
"Moral of the story," Goodacre tells the Eye: "if you are going to plagiarize, don't do it when writing obituaries of scholars whose work involves source criticism of texts."
Many thanks to Richard Bartholomew for sending me a scan of the page.

15 comments:

junia said...

fab

Peter M. Head said...

well that really is fame

Geoff Hudson said...

This was not serious plagiarism.

Geoff Hudson said...

"Moral of the story," Goodacre tells the Eye: "if you are going to plagiarize, don't do it when writing obituaries of scholars whose work involves source criticism of texts."

Is this a reflection of a smug attitude by scholars of source criticism? It may be very clever what they do, but does it lead to historical truth?

Mark Goodacre said...

If this was not serious plagiarism, Geoff, I don't know what is.

I agree that my facetious comment may sound a little smug, but I couldn't resist a slightly naughty comment on something that was actually pretty disgraceful.

Michael Barber said...

Mark,

This is fantastic. Loved the line you gave to the paper. I'm probably going to be using this to explain Source Criticism to students for the rest of my life.

You just can't make this stuff up. Kudos!

Geoff Hudson said...

Serious plagiarism is when one student quotes the work of a scholar as though it was his own. More serious plagiarism is when a scholar does the same, scholar on scholar. The Telegraph writer just didn't know any better, and was merely trying to do his/her job, a thankless one of writing obituaries.

Mark Goodacre said...

Thanks, Michael. It certainly provides a strong analogy for discussing source criticism.

Mark Goodacre said...

Geoff: this obituary writer also "quotes the work of a scholar as though it was his own", but worse -- he doesn't quote and it's not a scholar s/he is copying from.

The way that newspapers generally write obituaries of scholars is to commission another scholar who knows their work well and who can write a fair and balanced piece. I have done this myself for The Times. (I would not on principle write one for the Telegraph after this debacle).

Geoff Hudson said...

Mark, a scholar's plagiarism of another's work is much more more subtle than that of the Telegraph's writer. It is probably born of a jealousy that someone had expressed a view before. Biblical studies people, by their very nature, are much better at defending themselves from accusations of plagiarism.

theologyarchaeology said...

I have to agree with Mr. Hudson. This is an obit and not an academic paper for grades or financial gain. There are only so many ways to say '52 gnostic texts were discovered'.
If the obit writer used any variation I would highly suspect he would be charged with plagerism because someone else has already used one of those variations in their published work.
Common knowledge is not under the plagerism news and the discovery of the texts is common knowledge, as is the number of texts found.
It is not like the obit writer went and lifted a passage from Josephus and called it his own.
He is simply writing a blurb filled with information and I highly doubt he put his name on it.
Clearly Goodacre has a plagerism obsession and sees it everywhere.

theologyarchaeology said...

sorry I missed one word and do not see an edit button. 'news' should read 'rules'.

Mark Goodacre said...

I love the idea, Geoff, that plagiarists are more subtle than the Telegraph's obituary writer!

Mark Goodacre said...

Well, "theologyarchaeology", it's pretty clear it's not an academic paper! A first year student paper would be referred to the student disciplinary board for less!

The absurd thing about the 52 gnostic texts line is that I noticed the error before Todd pointed out that it was plagiarized from elsewhere. Stupidly erroneous statements copied verbatim are often easier to spot than correct statements copied verbatim.

Geoff Hudson said...
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