The Editor of the new English newspaper Lakbima grievously irked the Sri Lankan blogosphere recently by publishing articles based on blog posts without any acknowledgment of the sources. There are already many posts on Kottu on the issue, from the bloggers themselves whose content was used without attribution to others expressing their opinion on the issue and how one should proceed if mainstream media was to act in such a manner again. As some recall, this is not the first instance in which the incumbent Editor of Lakbima has published blog posts without attribution. This post for example points to a rather sordid history of plagiarism by this Editor.
The issue seems to be on the one hand significant pressure to source content to a new newspaper given the paucity of good writing and writers. The Editor of Lakbima must surely face the unenviable task of filling his pages at a time when most (good) columnists already publish in other newspapers, online or a combination of both. Exclusivity and binding contracts to publish in only one location are increasingly difficult to establish and effectuate in our digital age. On the other hand, the plagiarism of online content flags the need to revisit media professionalism and ethics in light of the growth of blogs and citizen journalism. The pretense of professionalism – the flipside of media freedom in Sri Lanka exposed the divide between a Code of Ethics and its actual practice and implementation by mainstream media. As this post and the comments in response to it suggest, the Editor of Lakbima stands accused of a gross dereliction of media professionalism, further evinced by Rajpal Abeynaike and the last 24 hours that points to a rather temperamental approach to and understanding of journalism.
So, after having lied profusely on his comment, he texted me apologising for his phone conduct and promising to call me today. I still await his call, but not with baited breath. I’m positive he is unable to keep to his word…. Rajpal, let me remind you, you don’t get respect. You earn it.
The mainstream media’s refusal to acknowledge its symbiotic relationship with blogs is not only irresponsible, it’s unethical. And until editors and producers hold their writers and on-air talent to higher standards of journalistic integrity, you can expect bloggers to continue doing it for them.