outtakes from the Tribune interview


The McGill Tribune: What led to you start the Daily Watch blog?

The Daily Watch: There were some silly and scurrilous articles about Israel last year that were filled with errors. While everyone was getting upset about unfairness, I tried to deal with them purely on their journalistic flaws.  After I got only a couple of corrections through the EdBoard, I discovered that The Daily's structure is unique compared to ALL other papers, in such a way that there is virtually no accountability for what anybody writes.

Too often The Daily justifies their bad judgments with the belief that they are leftist and "non-mainstream," and the people who don't accept their decisions are benighted.  But I'm on the Left and I see a lot of what they write as pseudo-left and conformist, and only non-mainstream in a shallow way.

I didn't just want to complain and do nothing. I wanted to add an alternative perspective to the political discussion The Daily affects at the University. And the only way I was going to publicize the lapses in good journalism that result from their bad policies was by using an alternative forum to The Daily.


MT: How is the public editor involved? Did you alert him of the charges?

DW: He gets cc'd on any email I sent the Coordinating Editor.

MT: What was his [the Public Editor's] reaction?

DW: He probably ate an apple or something.

MT: Did [Coordinating Editor] Drew Nelles or [Features editor] Martin Lukacs admit to any wrongdoing?

Drew Nelles denied that it was plagiarism, referencing his preliminary legal discussions with law students and the CUP Bureau Chief. But plagiarism does not have a legal definition. Copyright infringement is the crime in question, and no one is going to sue The Daily anyway.  He did say it "walks a dangerous line that should be avoided and dealt with seriously" but he didn't say how that was going to happen.

It seems that because the copying is clearly intentional, Nelles doesn't want to print a discussion of the mistakes that uses the word "copied," let alone "plagiarism."  When the copying is accidental, he prints an elaborate Errata; when it's on purpose, he tries to prevent people from knowing about it.

MT: How did you first discover the borrowing of phrases from the CCPA website? Have there been other instances of plagiarism by either Lukacs or the Daily that you covered?

There was some accidental plagiarism in a piece by Lukacs for which The Daily printed a fairly good Errata.  Then, there was a piece that Lukacs edited which had some of the same kind of accidental plagiarism.  When it was clear that Drew Nelles wasn't changing editorial practices in response to these incidents, and the Public Editor wasn't urging him to, I thought it might be good to check for accidental plagiarism in an article that heavily relied on a few studies ... This time, it turned out that there was copying which was clearly intentional.

MT: How is the SPJ [Society of Professional Journalists] involved?

DW: I emailed one of the members of their Ethics committee to see whether they how serious they thought it was, and he forwarded it to the whole committee for discussion.
They're not formally involved, but I'm curious as to what they have to say.  Maybe they'll have a light judgment of what the Features editor did, and that might make me feel more comfortable with it.

[ They didn't end up having such a light judgment. ]