A big matter of Principle

There has been much discussion over the past few days about the Maccabean’s use of photos that were taken from this blog and reproduced without permission or acknowledgement.

My views on why this happened (and how to respond) differ slightly to that of my fellow bloggers, but as a Jewgle blogging team our conclusion appears to be in unison.  We consider that that the Maccabean has demonstrated a lack of journalistic integrity, has exercised poor judgement and netiquette, and has crossed an important red line.  In short, the Maccabean is a publication that is charging customers to sell information.  This latest occurance is symptomatic of a big problem for the paper, which when it comes to news, has a track record of not creating information, but rather collecting articles and republishing them.  There is often, but not always, permission or acknowledgement.

The use of unreferenced Jewgle material is a big principle issue for our blog team.  At the outset, we would like to put on record our intention to be constructive towards all efforts to promote Jewish life in Perth.  Both now and into the future we do not have a problem with material being reproduced from this site.  But if it is intellectual property of our creation, then it deserves due acknowledgement and reference, especially when being reproduced by a registered publication with a paying subscriber base.   

It was once said that the difference between plagiarism and research is that plagiarism is copying the work of one person, and that research is copying the work of many. But Wikipedia does a better job by defining plagiarism as follows:

Plagiarism (from the Latin “plagiarius,” meaning “a plunderer” or, an older term, “plagium,” meaning “kidnapping,” or possibly “plagiare,” which is “to wound”) is the practice of claiming, or implying, original authorship of (or incorporating material from) someone else’s written or creative work, in whole or in part, into one’s own without adequate acknowledgement. …… Plagiarism can also occur unconsciously; in some cultures certain forms of plagiarism are accepted because the concept can be interpreted differently.

Let’s put it on record that Judaism is not one of those cultures where we accept that intellectual property can be taken and reproduced without acknowledgement .

With this point well and truely made, it is timely to make some broader comments that relate to Jewish media, including but not limited to the Maccabean.  The comment was made today that the Maccabean should not feel threatened by a blog such as JewglePerth.  Let me respond by saying that one of the things that the internet has done is to change the nature of media.  Our blog is a form of media.  We are not commercial, in the same sense that the Maccabean is ostensibly “not for profit”.  JewglePerth however, can and will be a source of news about Jewish Perth.  In an ideal scenario our efforts will be complimentary to the Maccabean.  We have no future commercial intent through the development of this blog, and in this respect do not represent a competitive force. 

There have been many calls for the Maccabean to be more representative of Jewish issues, local news, and accurate insight into Jewish ideas.  Our community paper has failed to respond, and persists in being recognised as a community rag and not a community newspaper.  On these matters JewglePerth is prepared to pick up the slack and positively profile issues, events and opinions within our Jewish community.  We have made the point previously, which was reflected within the papers own editorial, that the Maccabean is a newspaper without any professional journalists or correspondents.  If the publication wants to seriously define itself as “Perth’s only Jewish Newspaper” this has to change.  The search is now on for a new editor, but realistically the paper needs to be able to resource and establish a professional managing editor in order for it to function properly.  Our community deserves a good newspaper, and in today’s environment that is difficult to achieve in a voluntary capacity. 

What distinguishes Jewgleperth from mainstream Jewish media, aside from our amatuer status, is that we hold a clear and proud editorial line.  We are a contemporary pro Jewish, Orthodox, Zionist blog.  The Jewish media (Maccabean and AJN) cater to a broader clientele.  Their readers span the spectrum of those who identify with the Jewish community and as a result of the diverse readership they often lack focus or clarity in their editorial direction.  On occasions the Jewish media present ideas and concepts that do nothing but demean religious Judaism, and in particular the Maccabean has consistently allowed this to persist. 

As bloggers we are also forthright and direct, and believe we have a responsibility to draw attention to the issues that impact us.  This is perhaps the biggest criticism that many consumers of the local Jewish media have.  Papers such as the AJN and Maccabean have the ability to produce material that can find its way into the public domain and mainstream press.  They could fulfill a massive hasbara role for our community.   They could help to counteract the media bias against Israel.  They could positively profile the role of the Jewish community in Australian cities.  Sadly however, these publications are insular and do not look beyond their subscription base of Jewish households.  They do not look to produce news, human interest stories, or project the beauty of the Jewish community in the form of journalism that can be applied beyond the bounds of their own publications.

Finally, what we as bloggers are able to bring through this online medium is a truely open forum for opinion and debate.  In the past the Maccabean has held a reputation for controlling debate in the Jewish community through exercising over-zealous editorial discretion.  The paper has improved during the tenure of the past two editors, however it still avoids posing the hard challenging questions and promoting debate over contentious issues.  If nothing else the Jewgle blog provides a forum for discussion and open comment.  We do edit/delete comments if they are offensive or beyond acceptable limits, but are open to accepting criticism, tolerating different viewpoints, and faciliting serious discussion.  Your use of our media to exemplify the capabilities of community debate are always welcomed.   

The Maccabean has a mandate and a role for this community that it will continue to fulfill.  We have no mandate, but we do have the belief that in these days of alternative modern media, the position of the Maccabean is not exclusive, and not beyond reproach.  We will call the Maccabean, and any other media to task when we see injustice.  We will also continue to fill in the gaps by providing news and information about the Perth Jewish community, one of the Diaspora’s best kept secrets.   

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