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Text Theft in Caracas

Categories: Latin America, Venezuela, Digital Activism, Media & Journalism

On November 17 Venezuelan architect and blogger, Guillermo Amador, jotted down a post titled “Traffic and Civilization [1]” in which he criticized the Chief of Transit in Chacao [a neighborhood of Caracas] for claiming that the capital city's ever-worsening traffic problem had no solution. “Just because he doesn't know how to resolve the problem,” writes Amador, “doesn't mean that there is no solution.”

The rest of the post is precisely that: a four point plan to lessen vehicular congestion in the city. Ten days later Luis Carlos Diaz [2] left a comment [ES] [3] on the post informing its author that the text had been borrowed without attribution by the newspaper El Diario de Caracas. Amador responded with this post [4]:

Plagiarism or Inspiration?

This morning I received a copy of El Diario de Caracas from the 23rd of November. On page 15 there is a very interesting article about traffic in Caracas. It was written by me on November 17, in five minutes, as those of us who have a blog are used to doing.

But one second, don't congratulate me. The article is edited and a little unimproved and is signed by a man named Nestor Valecillos. What's surprising is that nobody asked my permission. I'm not cited in the article, there are no quote marks. Nothing. When I started reading it, I got excited, thinking that in some part of the article they were going to say “this article was written by Guillermo Amador in his blog www.elmodulor.com, he is an architect, and so on.” But no. As I kept on reading, my horror and indignation increased, because it was the entire article, not just a simple quote. What angered me most was that the “author”, Nestor Valecillos, puts my experiences as if they were his; things that happened to me are written in the first person by Nestor Valecillos. This shouldn't be done. It's really ugly. Let's not even speak of ethics or anything else ethereal, which ultimately are only in our imagination.

It's ironic that my article says this:

It can be supposed that humanity's cultural evolution passes through three states: savagery, barbarism, and civilization. While we can't remain in and respect the last, we will find ourselves in one of the other two. It's complicated to follow the rules while one sees that everyone else, those who surround you, are literally doing whatever they please.

And I find someone who published exactly that, hehe.

My blogging friends, the original post is here in my blog [1].

The article of Nestor Velecillos is here. (Part 1 [5] and 2 [5])


Adriana [6]: Friend, I believe that none of us would be bothered if they were to publish an article of ours, so long as – like you point out – we are cited as the original source. I think that journalists look through blogs to get inspired – even though this was no inspiration, but rather copying – they should have dignity, ethics, and professionalism.

Jose Blanco [7]: Unfortunately it's a recurring theme. Sometimes I find, between quotes, parts of our work in Google and it always presents disagreeable surprises … I have a friend at El Diario de Caracas and I'm going to call her to see if she can help.

Padre Oso [8]: Boycott El Diaro de Caracas until the plagiarizer publicly apologizes … what nerve!!

Hunnapuh [9]: You receive our support from El Salvador, where the blogging community is also large. And this pseudo-journalist gets our greatest repudiation, because it's not about economic benefits or something similar, because the majority of bloggers do it without motivation of profit … Our solidarity and respect for the work of all bloggers around the world.

Duilio [10]: Looking at it from the positive side:

- you made yourself more famous (now you'll be visited by more than google bots)
– it's evident that you wrote a good article
– I can't think of anything else: hold on a second while I look for something in some blog …

I also nearly die of indignation when I saw my posts plagiarized in various weblogs where they also make them worse, recount my experiences in the first person, change the gender of the protagonist in my stories, etc. And, yet, I still haven't made it to a newspaper!

Sebastian Delmont, a Venezuelan ex-pat living in New York City, weighs in with his post, “Copy and Paste Journalism [11]“.

I still can't understand what the “journalist” Nestor Valecillos was thinking when he delivered his most recent article titled “Civilization Stuck in Traffic”. Could he have thought that there isn't a single person out there who reads El Diario and also the blog of Guillermo Amador? Because just one single reader would note something familiar and make the connection. That's obvious.

Let's see if you guys take note: the article in question in El Diario de Caracas: Part 1 [12] and Part 2 [13] (which is the most interesting), compared to Guillermo's post about traffic in Caracas [1]. If you need a clue, look at the emphasized points … “improve public transport”, etc, etc. And if you think that the newspaper omitted one of Guillermo's four points, look closer, they simply forgot to put the bullet points …

I wonder if El Diario has enough etiquette and editorial responsibility to publicly admit to plagiarism. And I wonder what consequences it will bring for Mr. Valecillos. But these days I feel a little cynical so I don't have much hope.

Finally, Afrael – another Venezuelan expat living in the US – writes, “It's bad to generalize, but … [14]

Generalizing is bad, but really, journalism in Venezuela is worse every day. Again, I repeat, generalizing is bad and I know that for the fault of a few we end up judging an entire profession, but the actions of Mr. Nestor Valecillos [4] leave much to be desired. What did he do? Ohh, not a lot … nothing more and nothing less than plagiarize an entire post from the blog of Guillermo Amador, el modulador [15].

Of course, when you read things like this, you can easily arrive to hasty conclusions. I agree 100% with Sebas [11] when he speaks of Copy and Paste Journalism and really, what Nestor Valecillos did is not professional, ethical, or polite.

From now on, he'll have to face the wrath of the “criollosfera [16].” We're not much, but we have Google on our side.