How to steal smart and get caught; a lesson from The Reporter

If one steals smart — the logic goes — they should get away with it. Isn’t that the case? However, some try to get as smart, then, they fumble. That’s what happened to the English language weekly The Reporter, when they ripped someone else’s story undeservedly making it their own.

When was the last time we mulled over this subject? Remember the former Ethiopian ambassador to South Africa and Uganda? That was Tesfaye Habisso whom some folks nicknamed Copysso. The gentleman was churning out articles after articles on history, democracy, governance and all the grand ideas. It was not too long before someone exposed him. His strategy was like get a good story; change the title; add a few lines in the beginning; scribble a couple of others at the end; also don’t forget to put your name. Voila a piece! Little did he know that in this age of the Internet one cannot thrive on plagiarizing somebody else’s labour of love. By the way, have you heard from him since?

Here we go again

With two decades of experience under its belt, The Reporter seems to have everything going for them. They publish in Amharic twice and in English once in a week. When others struggle to put together just a weekly, Reporter is the only one coming out three times in that time frame.They even had a monthly magazine back in the days.

As the former Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF) fighter and the first post Derg head of the Ethiopian News Agency, the owner, Amare Aregawi is almost unrivaled in getting insider news from his sources in the security and intelligence. As a ruling party cheerleader, they get countless advertisements from leading public enterprises such as the Ethiopian Airlines, The Commercial Bank, Ethio Telecom and scores of others, funneling millions into their coffer. As if that is not enough, even government ministries and the likes of Anti-corruption Commission patronize them by placing ads in the form of messages, all covered by tax payer money.

Reporter’s huge financial muscle prompted them to set up their own printing press a few years ago until the plan went up in smoke, but that is another article.

With all these huge resources at hand, it is puzzling why they have to steal part of a story, the subject of which is closer to their turf than the paper they copied from.

The_ripped_storyOn the July 5, 2014, Reporter English edition a story reads: Confusion circulates over Andargachew’s extradition. A few paragraphs down the line, some sentences that have been seen elsewhere start to pop up.

Unfortunately, those paragraphs were copy-pasted from The Guardian of the United Kingdom, a paper of reference almost two centuries old. It is highly unlikely the two publications share correspondents. Could it be the vice versa? If the time on the page is any indicator, The Guardian story was posted almost seven hours before The Reporter went to press.

Free Press Free Speech Free Spirit are lofty ideals the Reporter took as its motto, but what we got instead was Free Ripping; words not to live by particularly when making hype of your 20th anniversary.

Check out a glimpse of the stories from the image; or alternatively click the links below.

The Guardian

The Reporter

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