Monday, April 30, 2007

Why read Tim Shipman when you can read Wikipedia?

The Sunday Telegraph ran an interesting piece yesterday on Fred Thompson, the former Senator and current Law and Order actor who is quite likely to contest for the Republican presidential nomination. After reading the piece, written by Tim Shipman, I looked up Thompson on Wikipedia to get a little more background on him. Then I wondered if I was reading the same article again.

Of Thompson's first foray into acting, Shipman writes:

"He was then asked to play himself in a 1985 film about a real-life judicial corruption scandal in Tennessee, supposedly because the producers could not find a professional actor who could portray him plausibly."

The wiki say:

"The 1977 Ray Blanton-Tennessee Parole Board scandal later became the subject of a book and a movie titled Marie (1985) in which Thompson played himself, supposedly because the producers were unable to find a professional actor who could play him plausibly."

That's a very close crib.

The next paragraph is an even more intentional lifting. While Shipman leaves the quotes in context, he does nothing to indicate that the preceding sentence is basically directly from Wikipedia. Thompson writes:

"He has been a popular choice for on-screen authority figures, playing variously a White House chief of staff, a CIA boss, a highly placed FBI agent, and a senator. As one New York Times critic noted: "When Hollywood directors need someone who can personify governmental power, they often turn to him.""

The wiki is:

Thompson would go on to appear as the amoral demagogue "Dr. Knox Pooley" in a five episode story arc of the TV series Wiseguy (1988), and has also been in subsequent feature films, including No Way Out (1987), The Hunt for Red October (1990), Cape Fear (1991), and In the Line of Fire (1993). A 1994 New York Times profile described his authoritative character roles as such: "The glowering, hulking Mr. Thompson has played a White House chief of staff, a director of the Central Intelligence Agency, a highly placed F.B.I. agent, a rear admiral, even a senator. When Hollywood directors need someone who can personify governmental power, they often turn to him."

I've checked the history on the wiki, and there is nothing indicating that it was rewritten to reflect the Shipman article. So it seems pretty clear that Shipman used Wikipedia, which is great. The problem is that he plagiarized it, which isn't great.

2 comments:

burlivespipe said...

Well, the incidents you point to suggest more sloppiness than cribbing, although the two can be linked. It isn't unusual for one piece of reference material (ie wikipedia) to be the only source of information (especially on background items), but in your last example he picks up a quote repeated in wikipedia; that he didn't dig to give attribution (if its available) to the person seems unusual. However, if it is an unattributed quote then it's free-game...
Not quite a case of plagarism, in my view. If its just the tip of the iceberg (and my current interest in Rupublonutz candidates is nil) in this article you may have something, but unfortunately it is very common in journalism these days, just like music.

sky3rsgold said...

However, if it is an unattributed quotation then it's free-game...
Not quite a situation of plagarism, in my perspective. If its just the tip of the iceberg (and my present attention in Rupublonutz applicants is nil) here you may have something, but unfortunately it is very typical in literature nowadays
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