Please don’t steal my quotes

Earlier today, I made a personal appeal to The Telegraph: Please don’t steal my quotes.

Actually, I put it a different way: I asked that the British newspaper cease and desist immediately from plagiarizing my reporting. I did not give Jon Swaine, the newspaper’s New York correspondent, permission to use my quotes without attribution.

For GetReligion readers wondering what I’m talking about, here’s the deal: I wrote a news blog post for The Christian Chronicle on Saturday night about an Arizona church member and his wife who were shot in Saturday’s rampage outside a Tucson supermarket.

Today, some major news sites — such as the BBC and AOL News — are citing my material. That’s fine. They’re giving the Chronicle credit. Readers know where the information came from.

But in the case of Swaine — whose newspaper’s website says that he “joined the Telegraph in 2007 and was shortlisted for Young Journalist of the Year at the 2010 British Press Awards” — he “borrowed” my material with no attribution.

Here’s how his story read as of a few hours ago:

The Stoddards were described by friends as “the lifeblood” of their 120-member congregation. Mr Stoddard was said to have been shot in the head as he tried to protect his wife, who was wounded.

“He got on top of her and tried to shield her,” said Jessica Knapp, who worked with them at the church. “This is going to be a huge hole in our congregation.”

All of that information, appearing under Swaine’s byline, came directly from the Chronicle.

After my complaint, Swaine didn’t acknowledge me directly or apologize. But he updated his story to give the Chronicle credit, including this attribution:

Mike Nowak, the minister at Mountain Avenue, described the couple as generous and said Mr Stoddard was often called upon to carry out maintenance work and odd jobs around the church.

“He always gave of himself and never asked for anything in return,” Mr Nowak told the Christian newspaper.

There’s only one problem with that attribution. It’s from the half of the story that Swaine “borrowed” not from the Chronicle but from the Arizona Daily Star (which also received no credit either in the original version or the revised one). In defense of Swaine and his newspaper, I would suspect that if your practice is to “borrow” information from other media sources and not credit them (deja vu, anyone?), it can be difficult to remember exactly where the information came from if someone calls you on it.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times has a nice story out today from a reporter who visited the Stoddards’ church. You can read it here or perhaps find a chunk of it at The Telegraph site later.

Print Friendly

About Bobby Ross Jr.

Bobby Ross Jr. is an award-winning reporter and editor with a quarter-century of professional experience. A former religion editor for The Oklahoman and religion writer for The Associated Press, Ross serves as chief correspondent for the The Christian Chronicle. He has reported from 47 states and 11 countries and was honored as the Religion Newswriters Association's 2013 Magazine Reporter of the Year.

  • SPW

    You know, they say, “Plagiarizing is the sincerest form of flattery.”

    Oh wait…

    Whatever the quote, you keep up the good work for the betterment of the Gospel.

  • Mollie

    Unbelievable. Please keep us updated on the thievery.

  • Jerry

    Sigh. Yes, what Mollie said. I’d also like to hear about any update.

  • Bob Smietana

    Local TV does it all the time

  • Bob Smietana

    … Was trying to commiserate with Bobby. Our local TV folks use our reporting without attribution all the time–and it is wrong when they or anyone else does it.

  • tmatt

    Let’s watch and see if gets on this one.

    That would be crucial.

    Does anyone honestly think this is not a issue of journalism ethics? If someone had stolen from, oh, The Telegraph would it be a big deal?

  • Bobby


    I don’t want to put all local TV in the same category, but I know it’s common practice for many newscasts to rewrite the newspaper without attribution. As you said, that is certainly wrong. I don’t know that they’re as blatant about it (quoting another media organization’s material verbatim without credit) as in this case?


  • tmatt

    When people use material that is inside quote marks — material from one-on-one interviews between a source and another journalist — without attribution, that is plagiarism, pure and simple. No excuses.

  • Dave

    Some people are shameless.

  • Brad A. Greenberg

    Radio and TV have long lived off the labor of print reporters. But there is something more despicable about a newspaper reporter poaching without attribution.

  • Bob Smietana


    I agree

  • John Pack Lambert

    Repeating lines from another writers work verbatim is bad. Even using their argument is plagerism. However this, where the writter makes it look like he did the interviews when in fact he just stole them from another paper is without question plagerism of the worst variety.

    Is it possible to bring criminal charges, or is plagerism not a crime? Does this not constitute a violation of copyright law. Fair use implies not trying to pretend you did something someone else did.