Suburban Responds To Our Open Letter

We published an Open Letter on Sunday (8 November 2015) as a result of SSN content being published without attribution in Zimpapers’ publication, Suburban. The letter which was addressed to Ashraf Tikiwa, Goodwill Zunidza and Suburban editors, saw a widespread outcry on social media against plagiarism of online content by Zimbabwean print media.  SSN received initial response from Suburban’s editorial co-ordinator in the early evening on Monday in the form of an apology by phone but we could not issue any update for you, our readers, as it was not an official, written response.

Today (11 November 2015) we received a written memo from Zimpapers. The team at Suburban has apologised for the conduct of their correspondents and though not explicitly mentioned to us, we believe the two writers in question will have to answer to their superiors. Our understanding is that people higher up the ranks at media houses like Zimpapers are not aware of this all-too-common ill practice of plagiarism, and are in turn being duped into paying correspondents for work that is not theirs.

Below is an excerpt from the memo we received from the Suburban.

Suburban has discovered that two of our contributors have taken sports content from School’s Sports Network and submitted it as their own contributions.

We have stopped this.

We were not aware that they were copying other people’s content and we apologise.

However, the quality of the content was high and we would very much like to use a selection of this content, except that this time the stories would come from School Sports Network directly or by copying from the website, but with permission.

Writers and the network would be acknowledged as the authors.

Thank you for your understanding of our problem and thank you for the help you have already given.

Going forward, Suburban will pay for all content, both stories and photographs that they publish from School Sports Network, and as mentioned in their memo it will be correctly credited to its true authors. Any other commercial publication that would like to use SSN content is free to contact us to negotiate rates for reprinting our work.

We cannot move forward the ethics of journalism by staying silent. One important lesson from this episode is that when we see plagiarism, we need to call a spade a spade. As an online community of writers, publishers and readers, we all have a role to play in speaking up.  Plagiarism has no place in our media.