Over a month ago we reported on the failed attempt to elect a new Primate for the Anglican Church of Australia. As would be expected, the piece generated a lot of traffic and not a little comment. Much of the conversation was over the hard work we did to get sources from within the meeting to tell us the story of that election as they experienced it. Not everyone was happy with what we wrote.
One of the reasons that davidould.net is widely read at moments like this is that I work hard to cultivate such sources and then report what they say. That’s the way these things are done, whether it’s on a little blog like this or in the wider reporting media. We work hard at maintaining those sources and the material that they give us is the lifeblood of the reporting that then happens. Simply put, our sources are our work.
Of course, that doesn’t stop other people from sharing that work or us from sharing what others have done. We just do it with proper attribution. If I report on something where someone else has done the hard work then I put a link in the piece. It’s simple really. And a professional courtesy.
But not so Muriel Porter writing in the Church Times as their “Australia Correspondent“. That’s a bold claim so let me back it up.
In what was described to davidould.net as “a very carefully orchestrated plan”, conservative electors for the new Australian Primate have prevented the election of a new Primate who would not uphold the doctrinal integrity of the Anglican Church of Australia.
It was a bold opening, granted. The quote (for that is what it is, clearly marked with quote marks) caused a bit of a stink. Some were very upset at the notion of “a very carefully orchestrated plan” for such an election. Others found the whole idea of reporting from within the meeting as objectionable. I don’t intend to replay that argument here.
So imagine my surprise when almost a week later the Church Times in England published a piece by Muriel Porter which closed with the following:
Let’s be clear on what Porter is claiming here. She presents a quote that has exactly the same words as our piece and describes it as “Sources say”, i.e. her sources. No attribution to davidould.net. No acknowledgement that I was the one who worked hard to get that quote from someone inside the meeting. I went back to my source and confirmed with them that they hadn’t provided the line to anyone else.
I then approached Church Times about this, asking simply that appropriate attribution be made for work that was clearly mine. I approached the Church Times since they were the publisher and thus responsible for the piece. I was astounded by the reply I got. I would not normally choose to publish correspondence in this way but one sentence in particular needs to be read:
I have heard from Muriel about your accusation and am happy to assure you that, although she saw your piece, she has her own sources, built up over a lifetime in the Anglican Church.
So let’s now be clear. The argument being made by the Church Times (and by Porter) is that she went to her own sources who gave her exactly the same quote and descriptor “conservatives” as my piece and she then chose to label it as her own work from her own sources, described in exactly the same way, despite the fact that she acknowledges that she read my piece which contained the quote in question.
She just happened to get exactly the same quote, labelled it in the same way, and presented it as her own work. And the Church Times published it and defended it.
That’s an amazing coincidence. Or plagiarism. You decide.
image: cut copy paste, KE4