Hot Buttered Death
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Thursday, April 10, 2003  

There's been some fuss in the Blogosphere about this article. Sean-Paul Kelley, proprietor of The Agonist got sprung committing plagiarism.

Kelley -- the man behind the wildly popular site The Agonist -- lives in Texas, worlds away from the war's front lines. And his reporting résumé added up to a mere three weeks at a local paper. Still, for the last few weeks, he had managed to post several dozen war-related news items a day on his site.
Some of the information was attributed to news outlets and other sources, but much of it was unsourced, particularly the almost real-time combat information presumably gleaned from a string of high-level sources worldwide.
Kelley's insightful window on the details of the war brought him increasing readership (118,000 page views on a recent day) and acclaim, including interviews in the The New York Times and on NBC's Nightly News, Newsweek online and National Public Radio.
The only problem: Much of his material was plagiarized -- lifted word-for-word from a paid news service put out by Austin, Texas, commercial intelligence company Stratfor.

To be sure, Kelley's done himself no favours by making himself look like a fuckwit in the article, and he recognises the damage he's done to himself. It's inexcusable, and I'm not surprised at some of the reaction I've seen on both sides of the political chasm; cf. Andrew Dodge, Dean Esmay and Bill Howell (no permalinks, post titled "Plagiarism"). Here's a Google search you can follow if you must have more commentary. I don't know, though, I suspect there's a bit of a beat-up going on. One day I was at 2SER and there was a press release on something or other in our pigeonhole. The next day I saw that same press release printed verbatim and without attribution in the Daily Telegraph. I don't remember what it was for or when exactly it was, but it was within the last month and it was in the Sydney Confidential pages, that I'm fairly sure of. It's not like Kelley's done something Old Media doesn't also obviously do.

UPDATE: Bargarz comments:

There's two questions at issue I guess and they go to the heart of blogging in some respects. All bloggers feed off other sources, usually the media. We all link to media reports so what is the acceptable limit (fair use) for attributed links and/or snippets? Judging by the scale at The Agonist, I'd say that any fair use policy was most likely breached.
And are his readers at fault for effectively using his site to gain access to a subscription service for free? [...]
IMO virtual shunning on a blogroll serves no purpose. Additionally blogrolls are up to the disgression of each blogger and everyone's taste varies. So who cares who is permalinked or not? For a casual blog like mine, it's not an issue.

posted by James Russell | 6:25 PM

what the critics have said