Saturday, July 14, 2007

COMMENT: Tim Blair splits hairs ...

Yesterday in Crikey, I exposed the fact that far-Right blogger and opinion editor of the Daily Telegraph had published an "article" from Wassim Doureihi of the Aussie branch of Hizb ut-Tahrir on July 12 2007.

The "article" included the by-line "By Wassim Doureihi". At the conclusion of the article appeared these words ...

* Wassim Doureihi is the media representative of Hizb ut-Tahrir Australia
The article was published on the opinion pages of the Tele. It was published as an opinion piece. Yet no opinion piece was submitted by Wassim Doureihi. Indeed, the Hizb ut-Tahrir website re-published the Tele version with this notation ...

Please Note:

Just for the record, this article is an edited version of the HT press release issued yesterday 11/07/07. It was included in Daily Telegraph (DT) as an opinion piece (with DT editing) without the prior permission of Wassim Doureihi or representatives from HT. Team

Proper and professional opinion editors print opinion pieces which are submitted to them by the authors or which they commission the authors to write. If an opinion editor wishes to reproduce something on his/her page from another source, s/he will obtain permission from the author.

There are proper and professional opinion editors. And then there is Tim Blair. According to Blair, it's enough that the Press Release somehow managed to end up in the possession of the Tele. That gives Blair the trigger to publish it as an opinion piece without seeking any permission from the supposed author or the organisation.

So next time any lobby group or company issues a press release and it ends up at the Tele's offices in Surry Hills, they shouldn't be surprised if their media contact becomes the author of an article edited and published without their permission.

Here's what I wrote in Crikey yesterday ...

... Doureihi confirmed to Crikey ... that neither he nor anyone else from his organisation submitted anything to the Tele.

So where did the Tele's Opinion Editor Tim Blair source this article? Well...Doureihi sees the article as surprisingly similar in content to a recent Hizb ut-Tahrir press release placed on their website.

... what on earth was Tim Blair thinking when he decided to reprint (and almost plagiarise) a press release as an article without seeking the author's permission?

I've had op-eds published in over 16 newspapers in Australia and New Zealand. I've never seen or heard of a paper editing and reprinting my stuff without my permission. In fact, most opinion editors ask me to approve the final version before it goes to print. Certainly Blair's predecessor showed the same basic professional courtesy.

I've had some disagreements with Tom Switzer, opinion editor at The Australian over the past few months. But Switzer is a true professional. He won't take a press release or blog entry, edit it and then print it as an op-ed piece. If he wants to use excerpts from an outside source for his "Cut and Paste" section, he will obtain permission from the source.

I've had a Korean newspaper in Melbourne ask me permission to reproduce a piece I wrote for The Age. I've had the editor of an Anglican parish newsletter in Queensland seeking my permission to reproduce an article that first appeared in the Courier-Mail.

It seems the editors of small community and church publications exercise a greater degree of professionalism than the opinion editor of a major Sydney daily. And Blair's excuse?

The very same press release was sent to the Telegraph. All I did was put Wassim’s name on it and remove some self-quoting intro lines - which, seeing as he wrote the thing, seemed fair enough. People are now alert to Hizb ut-Tahrir’s beliefs, expressed in their own words ...

I was thinking this: here’s a press release from Hizb ut-Tahrir. This is what they believe. Let’s publish it.

Given that Blair never even bothered to contact anyone from HT, the question arises: How did he reach the conclusion that Wassim Doureihi wrote the press release? Yes, Doureihi is mentioned as the media spokesman. But does it necessarily follow that Doureihi actually wrote the release?

Anyway, Tim. Let's presume that you did the correct and proper thing. If I get my Christian mate to write a press release on his views on the management of a certain Christian denomination and send it to the Tele, will you edit the article and run it without first getting his permission?

Things must be pretty dire down at the Tele if Blair has to uplift press releases and run them as op-eds. Maybe if he used less colourful language with contributors, he'd find himself with more work to do.

UPDATE I: Poor Tim must have had an awful past 24 hours. He's already entered FIVE updates on this issue, each a lame an attempt to justify his lack of professionalism.

Things must be pretty desperate down at the Tele when the opinion editor has to trawl websites to find opinion pieces. You'd think that, in an election year, MP's would be lining up to have their submissions published. You'd think there'd be no shortage of submissions from people wanting their view heard by a large audience.

Of course, by printing the HT press release as an op-ed, Blair has exposed his newspaper to the same criticism it makes of Media Watch and the ABC. Blair has kicked an own-goal. He's also managed to make his boss David Penberthy look rather silly.

Let's see how many more updates Blair will publish.

Words © 2007 Irfan Yusuf

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Nick and Nora Charles said...

Oh Yusuf - that’s not the half of it.

As someone who works ‘for the dark side’ as PR people are sometimes regarded, it’s an absolute gift if a journalist uses half a media release, let alone a full media release as a stand alone column piece.

And yes it has happened to me several times, including a media release published word for word under my by-line.

And when I worked as a print journalist it was underrstood by everyone in the newsroom from the Managing editor down to the lowliest cadet that any media release sent in to a publication was fair game for anything from ridicule to consideration as a serious news/feature/opinion piece.

You’re fooling no one my dear.

-- Nora

paul said...

Gee, Nora, you must have worked with some pretty shonky newspapers and/or PR forms.

In respectavle real-world journalism, people tend to obtain permission before using the (presumably copyrighted) words of others.

The word they use to describe it is "ethnics".

Anonymous said...

I agree with Nora - every large company and government department has a media unit which prepares/publishes /issues press releases.

And too true, "it’s an absolute gift if a journalist uses half a media release, let alone a full media release as a stand alone column piece." That's why you issue a press release. And yes the can and do get edited. Sometimes you even get luckier with a request for an interview.

I can speak of that from experience in prior employment where I dealt with media units in my organisation who wrote press releases for some of the work my team were involved in.

I think Irf, you are confusing a press release for an organisation with specifically commissioned articles or opinion pieces by individuals. Either that or you (and your Hizby mate Wassim) are ignorant of the purpose and function of press releases issued by communications officers, public affairs officers, media units etc in various organisations.

In any case, I think both you and Wassim have just made total fools of yourself by claiming you need permission, charging people with plagiarism (how that could be if it was published under Wassim's name is beyond me) etc.

Give this up Irf. You are not doing yourself any favours.


Anonymous said...

P.S. Perhaps you and Wassim also need to google up "What is a media release". Then ask yourself, why did Wassim post his article "for immediate release" on the risala website AND send it to media outlets. Not perhaps to get published? Attract media and public attention? Which is the precisely the purpose of a media/press release?

Like I said, you're not looking good here Irf.


Ash said...

Gee, Paul, you must have attended some pretty shonky schools.

The word is actually "ethics", not "ethnics". Are you intentionally being dense?

Irfan Yusuf said...

"Ethnics" ... pftt. That was funny.

I see Tim's cheer squad are here in numbers. So allow me to explain it in simple English.

a. Blair cannot definitively prove that the press release was authored by Doureihi. Yes, Doureihi was listed as the media contact. But so what? The only way Blair could have confirmed authorship of the piece was by contacing Doureihi. And as Doureihi confirmed himself, no one from the Tele contacted him before the 'article' was published.

b. Journalists are free to use press releases in their articles. After all, the press release represents the organisation's position. However, a press release is NOT the same as an opinion piece.

c. By editing (albeit mildly) and reproducing the press release as an opinion piece WITHOUT contacting Doureihi or HT to confirm the authorship, Blair is doing himself and his paper a disservice.

d. There is a difference between the "Cut and Paste" section in The Oz and the Opinion Page.

e. I'm glad Blair posted the HT piece. It showed the hypocrisy of the DT in accusing Media Watch and the ABC of using 'jihadist' sources whilst themselves happily indulging Islamist groups like HT. This was the real issue which Blair hasn't dealt with on his blog or elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

if an MP issues a press release, and if the bottom of the press release gives the name and phone number of a contact person, does that mean that the person mentioned at the bottom is the author of the press release? and does it mean the entire press release can be printed as an op-ed?

seriously, there's a reason why they call the paper "the Telecrap". as for you, saint, get a real job.

Chief Bastard said...

Simple English, for the stupider amongst you. Not simply taqqiya. Watching Irf twist this way and that over this issue is a hoot. So, Asif writes a statement, sends it to all the media outlet email addresses he can find, and then the B-team protest that it was plagiarised?

Your a fool. Quit whilst your behind.

Anonymous said...

Irf/anonymous (thank you I have a 'real job' and always have:

1) it is not uncommon to have press releases printed as is, edited, or included with other info with notes to say "a spokesperson for ...." etc etc.

2)Whether you like it or not, Wassim was the author, it was posed in a public forum by with a contact to the communications officer AND "for immediate release" all over it. It was also to media outlets(even the munchkins at Muslim Village don't deny it)

3) If it wasn't a media release what was it then, and what was its purpose?

4) And if one were to publish this where would you put it? It's not news, it does not announce events, it provides commentary/opinion.

Oh and by the way, I am not a Blair apologist. As Tim Blair and I can both demonstrate, I have taken pot shots at him as well - and the Daily Terror.

Happy trails.


Gordon said...

Irf, I am a lawyer in the USA, and I can't understand why you are unleashing your lawyer hairsplitting power in trying to make this out to be some sort of slimy unethical trick on Blair's part? People need to know what groups like HT (and all groups on the right and left) think for many reasons. These reasons include a) being able to determine what a group actually believes, and b) determining which groups are worthy of support. Where many in the West want to reach out to progressive liberals in the Middle East and Asia, I want to see everyone's press releases, writings, flyers, manifestos, etc... printed in the news daily. That way, i can decide for myself which groups I wish to support, and those I wish to condemn.

Anonymous said...

worst post in the history of the internet.

LDU said...

Honestly people, I'm not taking this whole issue seriously. Why? Whatever diatribe comes out from Blair's end is worth ignoring. Melanie Phillips and Tim Blair make a good couple.

Anonymous said...

Gordy, do you read Crikey? No? Then you've missed the point of this discussion.

Irfster, you'll be happy to know that Blair has now posted his SIXTH update. He claims that you've now changed yor story to focus on the hypocrisy of the DT.

As if this is some new argument you've made up. Then, whilst accusing you of bringing a new argument, he then claims he "dealt with this" earlier.

Blair really has lost the plot.

Samer said...

Irfan, as much as I agree with you and as much as I think Tim Blair is a turd, I think he might have a point.

Certainly in respectable media, journalists do use press releases as sources of quotation. Certainly you don't see press releases turned into opinion pieces without the editor ringing up the organisation issuing the press release.

But Irfan, Blair doesn't work for a respectable newspaper. Someone with his degree of chronic racist hate and in-bred stupidity can only get a job in a cheap 2nd rate paper that I use to wipe my arse with when I run out of toilet paper.

Cheap newspapers can do anything with a press release. I'm sure Blair probably uses them in the News Limited dunnies to snort cocaine (as no doubt at least one of his columnists does).

Blair has a point to the extent that he describes the common practice in stupid newspapers like his own. If Blair's predecessor didn't do this, it's because she's a decent journo who shouldn't be wasting her time having her work published in the Teletrash.

Anonymous said...

I've just paid a visit to the HizbutTahrir page sporting this media release.

On the top of the page under the headline A NOTE FROM HIZB UT-TAHRIR AUSTRALIA CONCERNING RECENT MEDIA ALLEGATIONS it says: For Immediate Release.

Irfan, you have manufactured a little news-based tantrum based on nothing.

Don't you like the fact that Hizb Ut Tahrir are declaring their intentions for all the world to see?

Or do you just not like it when a Western newspaper takes the HBT's words and show them to their own audience, who will then realise what they're up against ie an Islamist group who want a worldwide caliphate.

Your condescending criticism of the Telegraph does not fool anyone, but it has directed many people to the actual risala site where non-Muslims can see what's actually happening, so I suppose your little tantrum has at least
achieved our increased awareness of these nasty HBT people.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Irf. Look at the calibre of your critics.

You've got some idiot from Minnesota who publishes far-Right trash and links to LGF.

Then you've got white-trash bible-bashing Nick & Nora who pretend to know all there is to know about that really specialised science called 'public relations'. And their idea of Christianity is to pretend only Aboriginals molest kids. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!

"And we'll keep sexually abusing our kids until we get it."

Pftt. You could always convert, become priests and then molest other people's kids! Then you'll have the church slush fund to hide your crimes.

Thanks to 2:16-anon for reminding us that the Tele has helped HT propagate their message. Next Tim should print bin-Ladin's speeches on his page as op-eds. That way, the Tele will be going a step further and helping al-Qaeda.

Still, the way this trashy tabloid works overnight to convince their readers to hate Muzzies, they're already giving al-Qaeda a helping hand ..

Samer said...

Saint comes here and declares: "Oh and by the way, I am not a Blair apologist."

But at Blair's blog, Saint is actively sucking Blair just like that actor in Team America sucks Spotsworth's member!

And like a typical far-Right racist, he says this about me: "Samer’s name and comment read like someone who is supposedly au fait with cocaine habits and seemingly Lebanese or at least, Arab."

(I'm not Arab/Lebanese, by the way.)

And how about this beauty: "Scientology vs Islam. It’s like your money or your life."

Saint, if this is your idea of 'taqiya', you've done a pretty miserable job! Unless, of course, you're just Blair using an alias.

Speaking of Blair, his 7th update (poor bastard doesn't have a life) reckons I defamed him by calling his paper '2nd rate'.

And so I will apologise and declare that the Daily Telegraph is an excellent newspaper, a reliable source of news and a newspaper that never defames people.

It's a paper that would never publish a press release or speech as an op-ed without seeking the author's permission. And I'm sure it will prove its quality by dismissing Blair and sending him back to the Centrelink queue ..

Irfan Yusuf said...

OK kiddies, you'd all better stop now before Mufti Blair issues a fatwa that you have defamed him and his half-witted on-line friends ...

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rofl said...

It takes a big man to admit he's wrong. But conversely, not all big men will admit they're wrong.