Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/2007-07-09/Japanese plagiarism

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Newspaper obituary plagiarizes Japanese Wikipedia

By Michael Snow, 9 July, 2007

In an embarrassing mistake, a Japanese newspaper has been caught plagiarizing from Wikipedia for part of a front-page story about the death of a former prime minister, and apologized for the situation last week.

The newspaper, the Shizuoka Shimbun, originally ran the article in question on June 29, one day after the death of Kiichi Miyazawa, who served as prime minister from 1991 to 1993. It included a tale about Miyazawa, much earlier in his career as a cabinet minister, telling Soviet foreign minister Andrei Gromyko to sit down during negotiations over the Kuril Islands, where the boundary between the two countries has long been disputed.

Once the Shizuoka Shimbun published the story, readers noticed that this excerpt strongly resembled the description of the incident in the Japanese Wikipedia's article about Miyazawa. After this circulated on Japanese blogs and other sites, the newspaper came out with an apology last Thursday, July 5. According to the Mainichi Shimbun (Shimbun means "newspaper" in Japanese), the writer responsible thought the information was common knowledge and didn't need to be cited, but the editorial chief of the Shizuoka Shimbun called the reporter's action inappropriate.

The Inquirer suggested that "a better anecdote" would have been the one about how George H.W. Bush fell ill at a state dinner and vomited in Miyazawa's lap. This one makes it into his relatively brief entry on the English Wikipedia, which makes no mention of the Kuril Islands dispute.

For a sense of the magnitude of the situation, the Shizuoka Shimbun has a reported circulation over 1.4 million. Although not quite in the class of Japan's leading national dailies, it is a major regional newspaper. By way of comparison, its circulation figure is higher than that of almost all British or American non-tabloid newspapers (Japanese newspapers generally have some of the world's highest circulation numbers).


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