That wise old adage about stones and glasshouses was proven to be spot on, yet again, in Perth over the
weekend. The person showered with glass splinters this
time was The West Australian‘s Melissa Kent, who writes the paper’s page-two
gossip column, Inside Cover.

Just before Christmas Melissa gave Perth’s Sunday
Times
ace reporter, Joe Spagnolo, an embarrassing serve for his decision to
recycle a story about the difficulty of finding Santa Clauses for kids’ pre-Christmas
parties. Joe had run the story the previous festive
season in Bunbury where he was with The South Western Times.

Because it sparked so much comment in
Bunbury Joe’s reasoning was why not let the Perth’s city slickers read all
about the Santa dearth; but one year later, December 2005. Great idea except that Melissa was shown
Joe’s 2004 version so let him have it in Inside Cover. Not only was Joe’s story idea the same but
the same Santas he had quoted in his 2004 version featured in 2005.

Well and good until last weekend when it
was Melissa’s turn to get the treatment she’d dished out to Joe. Prominently displayed in The Sunday Times was
a story that carried the Inside Cover banner, with a picture of Melissa, and headlined
– “Exposed: The West‘s copycat.”

“A columnist with The West Australian
newspaper has been caught copying the work and ideas of other journalists,” The
Sunday Times
story began. “Melissa Kent, who now earns her salary
writing in the paper’s gossip page, has been exposed borrowing material that
had already appeared in other Australian newspapers.”

Thereafter several examples were given, all
of which showed a very close resemblance to Melissa’s writings. Borrowed works were from high profile
writers like Miranda Devine and Anita Quigley. No-one can claim The Sunday Times was
unfair because they contacted Melissa for her comments.

She said he had not “intentionally”
plagiarised other journalists’ work, adding that she reads “a lot of columnists
for ideas…Regarding the plagiarism, I would never
have intentionally done that,” Melissa added. Another interesting aspect of the payback
exercise was that The Sunday Times‘s article carried no byline. But it’s Sydney to a brick
Joe wrote it. Can you blame him?

Peter Fray

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