Over the last several years, blogs like ours here at SB Nation and around the web have been discovering stories before the mainstream North American press, causing a real, live lesson in journalistic ethics to break out right before our eyes.
In the hockey world, this typically happens when blog readers from Europe stumble upon candid reports in local papers. They translate these articles into English and offer it to the blog editor for publication.
When members of the mainstream press discover these stories, they'll sometimes act as respectful colleagues and credit the original source of the translation. Tim Panaccio and Sarah Baicker at CSN Philly do this often, such as earlier this week when they cited 'Euroflyers.com' as the source for a translated report on former Flyers defenseman Lukas Krajicek (see the end of the story).
Granted, 'Euroflyers.com' is actually our own Teemu H (euroflyers.com isn't even a registered domain name), but the point is that they're making the attempt to credit where they picked up the information. They're not overlooking the source simply because it is a blog, and they're not claiming to have found the information on their own, because they likely wouldn't have without reading the blog in the first place.
Unfortunately, the way CSN shows respect for their blogging friends is the exception, not the rule.
Earlier this week, there was a story in a Czech newspaper called Hokej that quoted Tomas Kaberle's father rather bluntly about his son's future with the Toronto Maple Leafs. A reader named Romdgpce at SB Nation's Leafs blog, Pension Plan Puppets, lives in the Czech Republic and read that story. His English translation was then published on PPP, where the elder Kaberle's harsh words for the Leafs were first shown to a North American, English-speaking audience.
This was two days ago, on Wednesday the 18th, to be exact. This morning, on Friday the 20th, the Toronto Sun ran a story by Dave Fuller titled "Kaberle's dad predicts a trade."
First, Romdgpce's translation, published at PPP:
"The problem is his health. He suffered a concussion last season and there is the possibility of a similar blow to his head and it could even end up as finishing his hockey career. In this regard, such a trade for Toronto would have been very risky, " said Kaberle senior.
Here's the Sun:
"The problem is his health," Kaberle Sr., told Hokej. "He suffered a concussion last season and there is the possibility of a similar blow to his head and it could even end his hockey career. In this regard, such a trade for Toronto would have been very risky.
Is it possible that two completely different Czech to English translators came up with almost the exact same quote independently of one another? Well, no, that's not likely, but The Sun didn't use a translator of their own anyway.
Fuller's editor, James Wallace, admitted as much in an email to another concerned PPP reader. Wallace said the following in the email, which has been published at PPP.
Fuller credited the source magazine (Czech hockey magazine Hokej) for the quotes used in our article. While he read the translated article first on the pensionplanpuppets website, he checked the original article and quotes thorough Google Translate. Attributing quotes to another source is not plagiarism.
We gather information from a variety of sources, including blogs, tweet, etc. Newspapers are not websites. We don’t credit links. The Czech magazine and it’s writer are the originating source of the news and thus deserve credit - not you or your website.
Crediting the PPP translation would not have been 'crediting a link.' It's crediting an original work, as that's what an original translation is considered. The Sun has admitted that they did in fact use the original translation written by Romdgpce, meaning that citation is the right thing to do.
The Google Translate defense is pretty weak anyway. Another PPP reader, Bower Power, put together this compelling line-by-line comparison of Fuller's story, the PPP translation and the Google translation. You don't have to read anything further to realize that Fuller took the Romdgpce's translation from Pension Plan Puppets almost verbatim.
That is plagiarism in the purest sense of the word, and seeing a professional journalist and his editor attempting to shimmy their way out of this by defending their unacceptable actions is indefensible.
Making matters even worse: TSN.ca has the story up on their site, and they credit The Sun multiple times.
As alluded to off the top, we're not trying to paint the mainstream media with any type of broad brush. Many of our counterparts are responsible and respectful of the work that bloggers do, and it is our relationships with those journalists that will close the gap between traditional and new media.
Unfortunately, for every CSN there's a Toronto Sun, working hard to turn that gap into a chasm.