Imitation is the greatest form of flattery? Is the Belfast Telegraph standing on the shoulders of the News Letter?

Two articles in local newspapers this week show a remarkable similarity. On Monday, the News Letter published a story (also in Coleraine Times) following up Ian Paisley Jnr’s statement in Westminster Hall last week about the future of A&E at the Causeway Hospital. A tip off pointed to Tuesday’s Belfast Telegraph website which also carries the story.

While a significant portion of both articles rely on statements made by Ian Paisley Jnr MP in the House of Commons – available on Hansard (scroll down to 3.21pm) – and a brief comment from a Trust spokeswoman, the ordering of how the facts are relayed and the similarity of the phrasing is extraordinary.

I find it difficult to believe that the Belfast Telegraph article wasn’t based on a copy’n’paste of the News Letter one. The change tracking shows the differences in the Belfast Telegraph text when compared with Monday’s News Letter article. [Happy to update this post with any alternative explanation from the Belfast Telegraph outlining how great minds in the two newspaper offices thought alike!]

news letter belfast telegraph articles comparison

Blog posts – including those on Slugger O’Toole – often rely heavily on other people’s words., bringing snippets (though sometimes whole articles or posts) to wider attention and adding some commentary. Normal blogging good practice clearly cites the source of information and if possible links to the original source. Bloggers do make mistakes – though are in a position to fix them if they’re pointed out, either in original posts or in subsequent posts adding new commentary.

Mainstream media are often influenced by each other too. Snippets from radio interviews are often reported in print without referencing the station, programme or presenter. One day’s exclusive is the subject of an article in other papers the following morning. And blog posts can sometimes influence (the the subject and wording) of stories on the front page of newspapers.

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On the issue of the Causeway Hospital A&E, the Trust are clear in a statement:

The Trust has no plans at present to change Causeway A&E. We are in the process of jointly developing plans with the Northern Area ‘Local Commissioning Group’ as required by DHSSPS, in response to the Transforming Your Care proposals. Across N Ireland, draft plans are required for all services by late June. Any plans for Causeway A & E will not be for closure, and no change is planned for the short-term. We are developing our contribution to these draft plans in partnership with senior clinicians and staff, and a range of other stakeholders. The focus of these plans is on ensuring services are safe and sustainable for the long-term. Draft plans will be reviewed at a public Board meeting prior to submission to the Health and Social Care Board in June.

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