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No, I think you'll find that I said that...

Not Exactly Rocket ScienceBy Ed YongJanuary 9, 2009 5:21 PM


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Amusing little tale of journalism for you:

On 30 December, I wrote a piece about the spookfish and its amazing eyes. The last line of the piece was:

That must give the fish a great advantage in the deep sea, where the ability to spot even the dimmest and briefest of lights can mean the difference between eating and being eaten.

That's not a quote, it's my prose. So it was a bit surprising to see a BBC piece on the same topic, dated 7 January, where the same line turns up, word-for-word, and is attributed to Julian Partridge, one of the authors on the study. Spooky and fishy.

A bit of investigation led to a press release by the Bristol University press office, which ends with the same line and was presumably the source of the BBC story. I have since contacted the press office and after explaning the nature of a Creative Commons Licence, they have apologised and agreed to remove the line. It may indeed be gone by the time you see this.

I don't want to harp on about this, given that it was cordially resolved, but this post exists in case anyone thinks that I stole my prose from the BBC or from the press release. Writers literally make a living with their words and it's really bad form to nick them. It's also amusing that in the press release itself, the line is just part of the text and on the BBC story, it's been miraculously converted into a quote. Journalism eh?

Update: It's interesting to see where the line turns up.

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