About that plagiarism snafu at the Daily Mail

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·Media Reporter
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So it turns out it IS dangerous to use your BlackBerry after the flight crew asks that "all electronic devices be turned off at this time." But let's not bury the lead.

The New York Times published an article about this rather frightening digital interference threat on Jan. 17. Two days later, the U.K.'s Daily Mail published a story on the same subject. Or was it just the same article?

As Jim Romenesko pointed out on Thursday, "many" passages in the Daily Mail piece were nearly identical to those in the Times. "Call the plagiarism police!" he yelled in his headline.

Apparently someone did.

By Friday morning Eastern time, the Daily Mail had removed the byline of reporter Liz Thomas from the piece, which itself had been edited and cut down significantly from its original form sans the lifted Times text. (See below for examples.)

But Thomas told The Cutline via email: "This has nothing to do with me. I did not write the piece at all. I am away on holiday."

So what happened here?

"I can tell you that an inquiry is underway to discover how this happened and [we will] deal with the matter appropriately," said Charles Garside, assistant editor at the Daily Mail, who noted that the following erratum was being appended to the piece: "An earlier version of this article was mistakenly attributed to the writer Liz Thomas. We also regret that a revised version of the article also failed to attribute the source to the New York Times."

More careful next time, right? Although it seems this is not the first time that the Mail, a middlebrow tabloid whose website has the second-highest traffic of any newspaper website in the world (after the New York Times), has been fingered for stealing the words of others. Another recent victim was the Los Angeles Times, last January.

Here are the passages in question from this week's piece:

NYT:

Many of these devices transmit a signal, and all of them emit electromagnetic waves, which, in theory, could interfere with the plane's electronics. At the same time, older planes might not have the best shielding against the latest generation of devices, some engineers said.

DM:

Most personal devices transmit a signal and all of them emit electromagnetic waves which, in theory, could interfere with the plane's electronics. At the same time, older planes might not have the best protection against the latest generation of devices.

NYT:

Safety experts suspect that electronic interference has played a role in some accidents, though that is difficult to prove. One crash in which cellphone interference with airplane navigation was cited as a possible factor involved a charter in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2003. Eight people died when the plane flew into the ground short of the runway.

The pilot had called home, and the call remained connected for the last three minutes of the flight. In the final report, the New Zealand Transport Accident Investigation Commission stated, "The pilot's own cellphone might have caused erroneous indications" on a navigational aid.

DM:

Safety experts suspect that electronic interference has played a role in some accidents, although it is difficult to prove.

One crash in which mobile phone interference with a plane's navigation was cited as a possible factor involved a 2003 flight in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Eight people died when the plane flew into the ground short of the runway.

The pilot had phoned home, and the call remained connected for the last three minutes of the flight.

NYT:

Since 2000, there have been at least 10 voluntary reports filed by pilots in the United States with the Aviation Safety Reporting System, administered by NASA. In 2007, one pilot recounted an instance when the navigational equipment on his Boeing 737 had failed after takeoff. A flight attendant told a passenger to turn off a hand-held GPS device and the problem on the flight deck went away.

DM:

Since 2000, there have been at least 10 voluntary reports filed by pilots in the U.S. with the Aviation Safety Reporting System, administered by NASA.

In 2007, one pilot recounted an instance when the navigational equipment on his Boeing 737 had failed after takeoff.

A flight attendant told a passenger to turn off a hand-held GPS device and the problem on the flight deck went away.

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