Journal de Montréal plagiarizes PressProgress, blames “simple omission”

Stories about newbie candidates (usually in no-hope ridings) being shamed for their views expressed on social media seem to be a dime a dozen these days. Opposition researchers and party activists are scouring every Twitter and Facebook account associated with a candidate to find something they wrote years ago that is either downright awful or can be spun in a way to make them intolerant, mean, disgusting or just stupid.

So when the left-wing website PressProgress published a story about a Conservative candidate’s sharing of Russian stories on Facebook, it just got added to the pile. Apparently some of these articles are, to be generous, not politically correct when it comes to gender.

Because the original articles are in Russian, people who don’t understand that language kind of had to take PressProgress’s word on its translations. So there was initial skepticism about the story.

But a few hours later, the Journal de Montréal confirmed it with a similar story of its own.

Actually, wait a minute, that’s not a similar story, it’s the same story, translated into French, with a new (less sarcastically partisan) lead and the same screengrabs. And the word “PressProgress” didn’t appear anywhere on the page.

How does this make sense?

PressProgress editor Luke LeBrun confirmed to me that the original article, which has no byline, was written by PressProgress. “We even had the original Russian Facebook posts translated,” he said.

“Just contacted the JdeM to ask them to give us attribution. This happens from time to time with traditional media outlets, our general policy is we’re elated for anyone to use/cite our work so long as PressProgress is given attribution.”

That’s a scary thing to read, that plagiarism from traditional media could be this common.

It’s all a “misunderstanding”

I contacted Stéphane Plante, the digital content producer at the Journal whose byline is on their story. Here’s what he said:

“Simple omission entraînée par la révision du texte où une partie du texte a été retirée par erreur. Je crois qu’un collègue a rectifié le tir. Je vais vérifier et je corrige le tout. Désolé de la confusion.”

The article now includes two mentions of PressProgress. One is at the top of the story, calling PressProgress a “news site” saying it reported the story, and the other at the bottom saying PressProgress archived the Facebook posts with screen grabs, which I guess passes for a credit. The story does not credit PressProgress for the translations, but Plante confirmed that’s where he got them from. It also does not link to the original PressProgress story.

Interestingly, the article includes a “mise à jour” date that doesn’t reflect that the text was changed today. The updated article also doesn’t include a correction or apology.

The “simple omission” or “editing mistake” excuses are common after accusations of plagiarism, and some are more believable than others. I can’t prove this reporter’s motives any more than he can, but it’s very suspicious for such a long text to not be filled with attributions.

Compare and contrast

Here are most of the original PressProgress article and the Journal de Montréal story as it originally appeared, to get an idea of how much has been copied.

PressProgress Journal de Montréal
 

Here’s a translated countdown of 4 Russian listicles Toubis shared on issues relating to sex and gender:

1. Alcohol and the character of a woman
“Did you know that you can tell a lot about a woman from the kind of alcohol she prefers?” asks a listicle titled “alcohol and the character of a woman” that profiles the characters of women and always seems to end with them blacking out, for some reason:

Here are a few points from the listicle Toubis shared:

“Whiskey – women who are confident and don’t have complexes. After drinking, they are wild and unpredictable. They become drunk quickly and don’t like to recall the night before in the morning because they can wreck a lot.”

“Tequila – for extravagant and explosive ladies. They can be violent and dangerous when drunk, but will blackout after a few rounds.”

“Gin and Tonic – Women who enjoy this drink like to put on an intellectual face and discuss things of which they have not the slightest idea. They get drunk quickly and can’t remember what happened to them in the morning.”

Une des listes relayées par le candidat s’intitule : «Saviez-vous que vous pouviez en apprendre beaucoup sur une femme par le type d’alcool qu’elle préfère?» Chaque type d’alcool étant associé à un comportement féminin.

«Whiskey – Des femmes confiantes et sans complexe. Lorsqu’elles ont bu, elles sont sauvages et imprévisibles. Elles s’enivrent rapidement et n’aiment pas se rappeler le lendemain matin de ce qui a pu se passer la veille.»

«Tequila – Des dames extravagantes et explosives. Elles peuvent être violentes et dangereuses en état d’ivresse mais elles s’effondrent après quelques verres.»

«Gin tonic – Les femmes qui aiment ce drink tendent à se donner des airs d’intellos en discutant de sujets qu’elles ne connaissent pas du tout. Elles se saoulent rapidement et ne peuvent pas se souvenir de ce qui leur est arrivé le matin suivant.»

 

2. The Rules of Attraction

And Toubis also has advice on the “rules of attraction”:

Here are some translated points from this listicle:

“If a woman offers you sex but you, for whatever reason, can’t accept her offer, don’t tell her the truth about [her] crooked teeth or large nose.””If you go on more than three dates with a girl and make no attempt to sleep with her, you are a scoundrel who is wasting precious time on her biological clock.”

“If you catch your girlfriend with a woman, you have the right to silently undress and join them.”

“A man never raises his hand to a woman… There are other body parts to raise for a woman.”

“If she is pregnant and refuses your offer of marriage, politeness demands that you wait until her morning sickness has passed and then ask again. Maybe this time she won’t listen to your proposal with such a sour face.”

Une autre des listes fait état de différents aspects de la sexualité.

«Si une femme vous offre de coucher avec vous, mais vous, pour une raison quelconque, ne pouvez accepter son offre, ne lui dites pas la vérité à propos de ses dents croches ou son gros nez.»

«Si après trois rendez-vous avec une fille vous ne cherchez toujours pas à coucher avec elle, vous êtes un scélérat et vous faîtes perdre un temps précieux à son horloge biologique.»

«Si vous surprenez votre petite amie avec une autre femme, vous avez le droit de vous déshabiller en silence et de vous joindre à elles.»

«Un homme ne lève jamais la main sur une femme. Il peut lever bien d’autres parties du corps par contre…»

«Si une femme est enceinte et qu’elle refuse votre demande en mariage, la politesse exige que vous attendiez ses nausées matinales pour lui demander à nouveau. Peut-être que cette fois, elle vous écoutera en arborant un visage plus conciliant.»

3. “Being a man is hard”

But not all of Toubis’ advice is directed at an audience of men. For example, he also shared advice to women to help them understand why “being a man is hard”:

Here is some of that advice:”If you think you are fat, you probably are.””Learn to interact with the toilet seat. You’re not a little girl after all. If you need it put down, do it yourself.”

“Tears are blackmail.”

Got that ladies?

Certains conseils, toujours présentés sous forme de listes, s’adressent aux femmes directement.

«Si vous croyez être grosse, c’est que vous l’êtes probablement.»

«Apprenez à vous servir du siège de la toilette. Vous n’êtes plus une fillette. Si vous en avez besoin, baissez-le vous-mêmes.»

«Les larmes sont du chantage.»

4. Signs of a mentally healthy man? Not “a latent homosexual,” apparently.

And Toubis even has advice in the areas of mental health and sexual orientation, found in a blog on the “seven signs of a mentally healthy man” posted only in March of this year.

Sign number seven? A mentally healthy man “likes full female hips. Fans of bony behinds are infantile and irresponsible souls.”

The blog adds “this is also a sign of a latent homosexual.”

Toubis a aussi partagé un billet de blogue établissant un rapport entre la santé mentale d’une personne et son orientation sexuelle.

Ainsi, selon ce blogueur russe cité par Toubis, «un homme en bonne santé mentale aime les femmes avec de bonnes hanches. Ceux qui apprécient les petites fesses osseuses sont des irresponsables avec des âmes infantiles.» En ajoutant qu’il s’agit d’un signe d’«homosexualité latente».

UPDATE: It appears Conservative candidate Konstantin Toubis deactivated his Facebook account following publication of this story: Ce contenu a été transmis par Toubis alors qu’il était déjà candidat pour les Conservateurs. Les listes ont été retirées de sa page Facebook depuis.

And here’s what edits were made to Plante’s story to add attribution:

Before:

Même s’il n’en est pas l’auteur, le candidat conservateur de la circonscription King-Vaughan (Toronto) a répertorié ces listes sur Facebook.

After:

Le site de nouvelles  Press Progress rapportait que le candidat conservateur de la circonscription King-Vaughan (Toronto) a répertorié ces listes sur Facebook. Konstantin Toubis n’en est toutefois pas l’auteur.

Before:

Ce contenu a été transmis par Toubis alors qu’il était déjà candidat pour les Conservateurs. Les listes ont été retirées de sa page Facebook depuis.

After:

Ce contenu a été transmis par Toubis alors qu’il était déjà candidat pour les Conservateurs. Les listes ont été retirées de sa page Facebook depuis. Le site Press Progress avait archivé(avec captures d’écran) les partages de Konstantin Toubis avant qu’ils soient retirés de sa page.

UPDATE:

UPDATE (later): I had a conversation with Mathieu Turbide, who is head of the Journal de Montréal/Québec’s digital team. He vouched for the professionalism of Plante and agreed with him that this was a simple case of an accidental deletion of sourcing. Turbide said Plante, who is part of a team that focuses on digital content, separate from the more traditional journalists of the Journal, often does these kinds of “rewrites” of other people’s content and has always cited sources.

I have no reason not to take him at his word, but I hope this will serve as a lesson for both Plante and the Journal. Plagiarism, even if it’s an accident, is nothing to be taken lightly.

And the article could still use a formal correction, along with a clearer statement that the translations are themselves translated from another source (unless the Journal wants to hire its own Russian translator).

One thought on “Journal de Montréal plagiarizes PressProgress, blames “simple omission”

  1. Dilbert

    I think it’s incredibly sad that the JdeM feels that using someone else’s work with minor attribution is “enough”. It’s also very sad that their news gathering and writing is apparently limited to the same web surfing the rest of us do.

    Reply

Leave a Reply