Adventures in plagiarism: Local paper rips off blog, thinks it did nothing wrong

Over the course of the last year, we at Broad Street Hockey have received a lot of heat from certain members of the mainstream Philadelphia Flyers-focused media. We've been lectured in press boxes up and down the East Coast, empty threats have been sent in our direction, and we've been called more names than we can count.

No sense in getting into detail, really, but it's happened. We believe that's because on rare occasion we've written things like this and this and this. We don't make it our job to criticize the mainstream media here, but when we do so, we think we're pretty fair with it. We think it's with good reason.

Many of those writers we've fairly critiqued have turned to these threats and childish tactics in hopes of stopping us from commenting on this stuff from time to time, but when we deem necessary, we absolutely will continue doing it.

Today is one of those times when it's necessary.

Let's start with this little issue of ... well, what amounts to plagiarism.

Natalia Bragilevskaya is a Philadelphia-based reporter covering the Flyers for Russian daily newspaper Sovetsky Sport. Even if you're not familiar with her work (it's in Russian, so you likely aren't), you've seen her around, notably as Sergei Bobrovsky's usual post-game translator.

Bragilevskaya got quite the scoop after Game 5 vs. the Devils on Tuesday night in Philly: A lengthy, candid interview with Ilya Bryzgalov, which first appeared on their Russian website after the game. Thursday afternoon at Yahoo!'s Puck Daddy blog, contributor Dmitry Chesnokov translated Bragilevskaya's piece into English. This was its first introduction to a North American audience, thanks to the work put in by Chesnokov.

I can't imagine translating an 1,100-plus word story is an easy task, and it's certainly original work. It's work I can't do since I don't speak Russian, and it's work that cannot be done by Randy J. Miller of the Camden County Courier-Post either. (It's fair to assume he doesn't speak fluent Russian, right?)

Yet there it was in the paper yesterday (and in several other papers owned by Gannett, the parent company of the Courier Post): Perfect translations of Bragilevskaya's original piece. Credit was given to the Russian paper, but no credit was given to Puck Daddy, even though it was evident that:

  • a) Miller would have ever known this interview was out there without Puck Daddy's original story and
  • b) he lifted the quotes directly from Chesnokov's translation.

Take a look at Chesnokov's translation. Then look at the version published at CourierPostOnline.com. The quotes are identical. We're willing to believe that it's possible the paper has a Russian translator on staff, on call, or one who is a friend of the writer. But if that's the case, would two independent translators come up with completely identical translations? No. Not at all.

Credit should have been given to both Bragilevskaya (for the original piece) and Chesnokov (for the translation work).

We contacted Courier-Post sports editor Gary Silvers, who told us that Miller "did not take [the translation] from Yahoo!'s Puck Daddy blog," and that:

As I said, the reporter tweeted the quotes in English. That's where Randy got them. That's probably where Yahoo got them, too.

I replied that no, Puck Daddy did their own full translation, and that the quotes that ran in the Courier Post were identical to the one's published by Puck Daddy. Also, Bragilevskaya never tweeted any English quotes from this story. Go look at her Twitter feed if you'd like.

I've yet to hear back from Silvers regarding my reply, which was sent late Friday. It's now Saturday afternoon. I'm not expecting another reply.

As for Miller's defense, he's hopped on the "I have a Russian translator of my own!" train, which goes completely against what his editor originally told us Friday afternoon. (Update: The below tweet has been deleted from Miller's account.)

It seems as though Miller not only committed plagiarism here, but that he's now blatantly lying about it on Twitter to Greg Wyshynski, the editor of Puck Daddy, the blog he plagiarized. Or perhaps he lied to his editor, and the editor passed that on to us via email. Regardless, conflicting stories are being told here.

All journalists want is the proper attribution. It's really not that much to ask. We all make mistakes from time to time, and apologizing isn't really that hard. The Philadelphia Inquirer did it regarding this exact same story, in fact.

If you look at the originally published Inquirer story Friday, there's no Yahoo! citation. We contacted Inqy sports editor John Quinn about this just as we contacted Silvers, the editor at the Courier-Post. Quinn initially expressed no wrongdoing, telling us that "I don't see any issue here unless there are problems with the translation," but at first check Saturday morning, proper citation has been added to reporter Sam Carchidi's blog post on the subject.

Carchidi also attributed properly in a Twitter post Saturday morning regarding an unrelated Puck Daddy translation of a SovSport artcle. Kudos belong to Carchidi and the Inquirer for doing the right thing. It's a shame the Courier-Post cannot follow that lead.

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This isn't the first time this has happened. Back in August 2010. Toronto Maple Leafs blog Pension Plan Puppets ran a translation of a Czech-language story about Tomas Kaberle, and several days later, the Toronto Sun lifted those translated quotes as their own. The Sun defended this by saying that they credited the original source of the story -- Czech magazine Hokej -- and that PPP didn't deserve credit.

Translations are original works. Can a paper do their own translation? Absolutely. But when somebody does that work for them, they are obligated to credit that source. (Every major stylebook has guidelines for sourcing translations.) In this instance, the Courier-Post did not. That's shameful, and when called upon it, they should apologize and move on.

Or just, you know, give the credit that's deserved. Like the Inquirer here.

(It's worth noting, by the way, that this isn't a rule among mainstream media. As we mentioned in that August 2010 story, CSN Philly often cites Internet sources for such translations. We imagine there are plenty others -- most others -- that do the same.)

But that's not how this has turned out, however. After we emailed his editor for comment, Miller took to Twitter in an attempt to defame us. (This tweet has since been deleted.)

All we did was ask a legitimate question regarding a serious journalism issue. As it currently stands, plagiarism is not against the law in the United States. (Things get interesting when you involve intellectual property law, but as it stands, there are no laws on the books against plagiarism, even though it's considered one of the worst offenses a journalist can commit.)

It's important for journalists to police themselves when it comes to this stuff, then. That's what this story is about, and we'll write it every time we feel it's necessary.

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Note: We don't speak for Yahoo! Sports, Puck Daddy, or its editors and writers.

We're not going to belabor the point here any further, but Miller did say some pretty inappropriate things about us in what turned into a lengthy Twitter rant. Since we can't respond to him on Twitter, as he's since deleted the tweets and he's blocked us, we've defended ourselves here.

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