Forget Journalist Plagiarism, How About Journalists Hiring Others To Ghost Write For Them?

from the this-must-be-the-new-journalism dept

These days, journalistic plagiarism scandals are old hat. Jayson Blair, Stephen Glass... been there, done that. So, now, thanks to Romenesko we get news of a new type of journalism scandal. A columnist who's been accused of hiring a ghost writer to write his columns. Apparently that ghost writer came forward, asking for bylines to be changed to include his name (oops). Still, is this really that bad?

It reminds me of stories from a few years back during the dot com boom when there was some concern about offshoring work to India. Some people jokingly claimed that they hired some folks in India to do their own jobs for them, and were able to make a good living without having to do much work, other than reviewing the work of others. It's not clear if this ever really happened, but would it really be that ridiculous if it did? Yes, there's the moral question of whether or not it was right for this guy to present the work of someone else as his own, but that happens every day. Almost every political speech is written by someone else -- yet no one worries about the ethics there. Books are ghost written all the time. Hell, I've been both asked to ghost write a book for someone else and had someone offer to ghost write a book for me (in the same week, no less!). So, is this really such a big scandal?

Filed Under: ghost writing, plagiarism, ramiro burr


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  • identicon
    Brad Collins, 13 Jun 2008 @ 7:16pm

    Where can I sign up!

    Sounds good to me. I'll be happy to ghost write anything.

    You can keep yer stinking bylines.

    I want cash

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jun 2008 @ 8:56pm

    how's this tech related? no, seriously?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    John, 13 Jun 2008 @ 9:14pm

    RE:how's this tech related? no, seriously?

    The failures of the newspapers have been well covered. And the newspapers are a media, just like the internet. Media is technology. The printing press is technology. It isn't high-tech.

    Also he did skim on an outsourcing idea.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Chunky Vomit, 14 Jun 2008 @ 1:23am

      Re: RE:how's this tech related? no, seriously?

      I'm glad somebody explained it to those guys. Maybe they are a little tipsy and just not thinking straight?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Michael, 14 Jun 2008 @ 6:40am

    Hasn't ghost writing been going on for nearly as long as journalism has been around.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Shirley Willett, 14 Jun 2008 @ 7:59am

    How About Ghost Fashion Designers!

    It was a comment I wrote on Techdirt Feb. 15, that fashion design copyright law is ridiculous, that Chris Sprigman, a law professor saw and he asked that I be on the panel for the “Copyrighting Couture” June 9, at the Copyright Society’s Annual Meeting. I’ve been meaning to write something up for Techdirt about the great success (from the audience of about 300 lawyers and law academics) of my challenge to all the those (most others on the panel) who were for a copyright law. You can see all my papers and graphics on my blog Fashion Solutions

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Jun 2008 @ 11:47pm

      Re: How About Ghost Fashion Designers!

      Shirley, I read your speech on your blog. I particularly liked your assertion that "Fashion ideas are a dime a dozen" and your emphasis on the much higher significance of production.

      Yeah, I am the guy that always posts on here saying how worthless ideas are and how execution is all that matters.

      It is gratifying to see someone in an entirely different industry who has come to similar conclusions even if yours are a bit more restricted than my generalized statement.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Fungo Knubb, 14 Jun 2008 @ 10:11am

    Who Cares?

    Ghost writing? ... who really cares anyway? A lot of what one reads as "News" is fabricated anyway based upon the political bias of the byline holder. I quit reading the newspapers, and watching network news, years ago because I stumbled across the actual facts on the Internet which erased the credibility of most of the major "News" organizations. They're "Propaganda" organizations now, not "News" organizations, and it doesn't matter what they write, or who wrote it. Its all BS just the same ... ghost written or not.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 Jun 2008 @ 1:41pm

      Re: Who Cares?

      Agreed, the major news outlets have long since ceased to produce content meant for evaluation, rather than consumption. No longer do they employ journalists who do invesitgative work, everyone just reads from a script that panders to the simple minded. It's just like any other business out there, they want to produce a good that attracts the largest audience possible, and because the majority of humankind is iggnorant, lazy, and border-line retarded, they can easily attract their buisness by producing content that doesnt need to be digested or analyzed. Give the audience something they can easily swallow that saites their appetite for mindless entertainment and you'll rake in the billions. Soon enough people will just be conditioned to react to stimuli deliever through advertisement -- maybe it is a good thing they're ear-taging us all with RFID's, so at least someone will know what the hell we're doing.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Mel, 14 Jun 2008 @ 9:58pm

    Ghost writers in the sky ...

    I guess I'll ask the question that needs to be asked: In that one week, did you consider having the offering ghost writer write the piece you were asked to ghost write?

    Cause that would be too perfect!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jesse Anderson, 15 Jun 2008 @ 6:13am

    For the money

    Well where is the money? It like us little guys are doing all the paying if just ad-company pay me for what and a whole lot of people is valueable then you would not all this dumb mess, the the free land where God rule just give us the money for our hard work and ideas.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Shirley Willett, 15 Jun 2008 @ 10:15am

    How About Ghost Fashion Designers!

    I started #7, but it was cut off, so here again complete and now will make sense.

    It was a comment I wrote on Techdirt Feb. 15, that fashion design copyright law is ridiculous, that Chris Sprigman, a law professor saw and he asked that I be on the panel for the “Copyrighting Couture” June 9, at the Copyright Society’s Annual Meeting. I’ve been meaning to write something up for Techdirt about the great success (from the audience of about 300 lawyers and law academics) of my challenge to all the those (most others on the panel) who were for a copyright law. You can see all my papers and graphics on my blog, Fashion Solutions.

    When I saw “ghost writers” I immediately thought of the first sentence of my talk. Almost all top label and celebrity designers have young people doing the designing – and they have some nerve to ask that the design ideas be copyrighted to them.
    "The battle in copyright law is really between big brand, celebrity designers – most of whom do not do their own designing, and whose profits protect their old hat production – and with tiny (DEs) design entrepreneurs, who have no voice in Washington - and with the copyright law would soon be extinct."

    I do not know about writing, but regarding technology vs. fashion design ideas, my 3rd paragraph explained that manufacturing and pattern technologies are far more important than ideas. The copyists who manufacture so well are more innovative.
    "Innovative production and pattern technologies help reduce prices and raise quality, and are more integral of the true fashion industry – than the look of styles – and doesn’t get, and doesn’t need, government protection. Fashion design is nothing without manufacturing. There are top brand labels copying themselves now, with fast, inexpensive and quality productions - that is the future. AAFA, representing manufacturers, are against the present copyright law proposal."

    I finished my 2 minute talk with the following.
    "Today, I am devoted to a new fashion industry for young DEs, for consumers, and to help empower the disadvantaged – giving them my Stylometrics innovative pattern and production systems – for free to copy. Everyone’s a designer – everyone copies – everyone makes money on making – producing at low-cost. Fashion ideas are a dime a dozen."

    Thanks Techdirt & Michael for great writeups.. I love all the ideas you represent and fight for.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Hootnhowell, 15 Jun 2008 @ 4:36pm

    Plagiraism

    Thank you Mr. Masnick. I found the article fresh & informative. Some may believe your article was about something other than high tech. That would be to assume we as your readers have tunnel vision, and only care about gadgets in our world. I like to think of myself as multi-faceted. I like to write you like to write, and apparently all who commented-you guessed it-like to write too. The tie in between writing and technology in my opinion was great. Keep up the good work though the disgrunteled fall by the way.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Killer_Tofu (profile), 16 Jun 2008 @ 5:37am

    Re: Main Article

    Mike: "Hell, I've been both asked to ghost write a book for someone else and had someone offer to ghost write a book for me (in the same week, no less!)."

    Haha, you should have hired the ghost writer to write your ghost writing. Then you could play the middle man and simply take the ghost writing, charge a markup, and sell it as your ghost writing. Easy money.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Derek Kerton (profile), 16 Jun 2008 @ 6:21pm

    Milli Vanilli

    Pa pa pa pa, pa pa pa pa, baby.
    Don't forget my number.
    Pa pa pa pa, pa pa pa pa, baby.
    Love is stronger than thunder.

    It's funny. Believe me. But if you have to ask, you'll never know.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Shirley Willett, 17 Jun 2008 @ 6:31am

    Re: Ghost Fashion Designers, Comment by Anonymous Coward

    Thanks so much for reading my blog, and seeing my whole presentation to the Copyright Society. It was only other lawyers, pro-copyright law for fashion design, that I had to challenge. The audience of 300 layers and academics were far more on my side. I love what I read here on Techdirt about "Ideas are Easy - Execution is Difficult". My 60 years of success in fashion design and manufacturing (and consulting & education today) fully validates this.

    Thanks to Mike, and all the rest of you on Techdirt. Your opinions and perspectives are the future, not the old hat past.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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