In the past few months a couple of high-profile incidents in the Canadian media have demonstrated the problems that result when newspaper articles don’t include acknowledgements of material from other sources. (Problems with source attributions have also recently drawn negative attention to writing in other kinds of media, as I’ve discussed here.)
Sadly, these kinds of problems don’t seem to be going away. In the December 11 edition of the Province, a daily newspaper in Vancouver, a story in the travel section has wording bearing a close resemblance to wording in this article on about.com.
The 77-kilometre-long international waterway allows ships to pass between the Atlantic Ocean and Pacific Ocean, saving 12,875 km from a journey around the southern tip of South America, Cape Horn.
The 48 mile-long (77 km) international waterway known as the Panama Canal allows ships to pass between the Atlantic Ocean and Pacific Ocean, saving about 8000 miles (12,875 km) from a journey around the southern tip of South America, Cape Horn.
Since 1977, the Panama Canal has been established as a neutral international waterway, and even in times of war every vessel is guaranteed safe passage.
The 1977 treaty established the canal as a neutral international waterway and even in times of war any vessel is guaranteed safe passage.
[…]part of the $5.2-billion expansion under way. The Panama Canal expansion, expected to be completed in 2014, will allow ships double the size to pass, increasing the amount of goods passing through the canal.
In September, 2007 work began on a $5.2 billion project to expand the Panama Canal. Expected to be complete in 2014, the Panama Canal expansion project will allow ships double the size of current Panamax to pass through the canal, dramatically increasing the amount of goods that can pass through the canal.
The problem here isn’t that the Province story uses the same facts as the about.com article – there’s no question that, for example, the Panama Canal is 77 kilometers long, or that the canal has been designated as neutral territory since 1977. It’s the close similarities in wording that are the problem – and the problem could have been avoided in the Province story by simply preceding the common material with an attribution like “According to about.com”. The absence of any such attribution doesn’t reflect very well on the Province.