According to its apology (see here), its Sept. 9 story “Dilemma about Horns” lifted “certain sections of the article” from Bloomberg Businessweek’s Dec. 9, 2010 article, “Saving the Rhino through Sacrifice.”
The apology, published by Journalism.co.za, added that the writer, Sharda Naidoo, “has left” the newspaper. The Financial Mail noted that Richard Slater-Jones, who wrote the accompanying articles for that feature of the newspaper, “is in no way implicated” and that the plagiarism is “contrary to the publication’s code of conduct and the ethics of the journalism profession.”
Journalism.Co.Za reported that Naidoo noted she couldn’t speak “fully” about the issue and that she resigned. “I have always aspired to the highest journalistic standards and believe my work has lived up those standards,” Naidoo is quoted as saying.
This is the story in question. According to Journalism.co.za’s comparison, the two stories share “story structure and conception” and the plagiarized sentences.
StinkyJournalism wrote to the Financial Mail to ask more about this incident and the newspaper’s policies on plagiarism. The Financial Mail’s deputy editor Max Gebhardt told StinkyJournalism by e-mail that the newspaper learned of the plagiarism charges from Bloomberg Businessweek’s Brendan Borrell. Borrell’s article is the article Naidoo is accused of plagiarizing.
The newspaper conducted its own review of Naidoo’s story and let Borrell know of the review and of the newspaper’s intended apology for the matter.
We also asked Gebhardt if Naidoo did resign, as reported by Journalism.co.za. Gebhardt did confirm the resignation and explained that she “resigned the night before she was to appear before a disciplinary hearing at which she was to face charges of plagiarism. The Financial Mail accepted her resignation and informed her, through her lawyers, as to the statement we planned on publishing,” according to Gebhardt.
Gebhardt reiterated that the newspaper has a strict anti-plagiarism policy and that “any member of staff caught doing so will face disciplinary action.” Gebhardt explained that the newspaper follows both the South African Press code and parent company Avusa’s code.
We also asked if the newspaper’s policy is published online. Gebhardt told StinkyJournalism it isn’t but included the Avusa’s tenets regarding plagiarism.
Avusa’s code calls for its journalists to always attribute any form of information or idea to its original source and bars fabrication. The code doesn’t permit its journalists to “change a few words in a sentence or paragraph and pass these off as our own,” and advises its journalists to always add “substantial original work.” Also, Avusa journalists’ “stories will be randomly checked for plagiarism,” according to the code.
StinkyJournalism also wrote to Brendan Borrell, who wrote the article that was plagiarized, to see if he was satisfied with the Financial Mail’s response. Borrell responded:
“I was very pleased with the response of the Financial Mail. The editors swiftly responded to my complaint and, after their 2-week investigation, published a prominent apology in their print magazine. I’d also like to see the apology appended to the online version of the rhino article, but I haven’t made a fuss about it.
“The best thing about this incident is I’ve bookmarked the site and now have a great way to keep track of the South African business world!”
iMediaEthics wrote last year when Avusa announced it was working on a new policy to dictate the use of anonymous sources.
UPDATE: 10/6/2011 10:06 AM EST: Made small copy edits .