We are editing the latest edition of the magazine right now - always a fun time in our tension-fraught office.
First there’s the first round of editing, which is always (not) fun given the writing skills of most of the contributors. BFB – the self titled “Editor in Chief” – is one of the worst offenders here because she persists in attempting to plagiarise.
The cover story she ‘wrote’ for this issue was basically a compilation of pasted bits of plagiarised text from other articles and copied portions from other companies’ press releases. I guess, technically, its not illegal to use the text from the press releases since that’s why they put them out, but to brazenly write ‘… BFB reports’ at the top of the article is another thing. What exactly did she actually write herself ? The answer is. … next to nothing. All she had to do was go online, look up her topic, slap together pieces of text cut from here or there, and voila! In a few minutes she had what she called an article.
Now in the past, I used to take such articles – if I could – and rewrite them, which would involve a lot of work on my part – reading, researching, thinking how to say and organise the information in an different way and what to add to it so that it could be called an original piece of writing. She was more than happy to let me do this and take credit for the end result. But at the same time she would have the nerve to submit largely plagiarised pieces to me and then go complain to DH that I am the one who is behind deadline (because what was supposed to be a short proof-reading/editing job of an hour or two turned into a total rewrite of an entire day or two).
It was simply a great arrangement for her. She got to take credit for a finished piece that was hardly her work, while passing off any blame for anything – such as being behind deadline – on me.also
This time I decided not to do the work for her. So I highlighted every single plagiarised paragraph with a comment and wrote “please write in your own words.” I left the copied bits from press releases alone, simply because I thought it was asking too much of her to tell her to exert her brains cells to even write them in her own words as well.
What she returned to me was hardly better than the first. Her idea of writing in her own words is something like this.
Original bit of text: “The town was overrun by mice, and the residents were distraught.”
Her rewrite: “The town was overrun by mice, and the inhabitants were very upset.”
Which still qualifies as plagiarism… *sigh*. So I still had a lot of work cut out for me.
Now we are doing the final edit – proofreading the draft copy by hand. I noticed she had told the designer to make an incorrect correction to some punctuation – she circled it in green and wrote out the instructions on the side of the copy. So I told him to change it back, and wrote a note to her explaining why. It was no big deal, just a small thing. I wouldn’t have thought a second time about it except that the copy returned with a scrawled note saying “I didn’t tell him to make those changes, if you check the copy, I only asked him to check the spacing.”
Well, lo and behold, BFB had taken her white out and covered up her incorrect instructions! At this point both the designer and I had a good laugh. We had both seen what she had written before, and we could see the blob of white-out as well. I really don’t know what goes through her mind. Does she really underestimate the intelligence of others so much? We just let it drop, it certainly wasn"t worth making a big deal about it, but it just reaffirmed to me that she has some serious issues.
Of course DH is similar. I am only responsible for the English text in the things we produce. Arabic is his responsibility in the end. What he usually does it send out what I write in English to a translator to produce the Arabic copy. Of course, a translator is only a translator, and it is DH’s job to check and make sure that his translation is accurate.
Recently there was an error in some Arabic text in something we printed and had distributed to several people. An email was sent to DH telling him this. He forwarded it to me with just “FYI” written on the message.
I was really quite puzzled as to why he had sent it to me since the Arabic is not my responsibility and there was no error in the English text. Then it dawned on me that he thought he could blame me for this by claiming that what I wrote in English was wrong. So I went to him and asked him why he sent it to me.
He said “because it’s your fault because you wrote the wrong thing in English.”
“No I didn’t.”
“Yes you did.”
“No I didn’t. I would never write that, and I just checked to make sure, and the English text is correct.”
He refused to acknowledge that this error was his responsibility alone until I brought the printed English text and showed him. Afterwards he couldn’t even look at me. His cheeks turned pink, and he stared straight ahead and said “cool” in clipped tone that barely contained his resentment. He sat in his office after that and stewed. After all, for DH who is so careful to cover up any mistakes he might make, the knowledge that he alerted me to a mistake he made was an unbearable shame for him. About fifteen minutes later, he came charging out of his office and straight up to my desk with some little stupid thing to nitpick about – he had this weird triumphant half crazed look on his face as if to say “I’ll show you who is the fuck up around here.”
He continued that behaviour for the rest of the day. Even my coworker noticed it and commented. I complained about this to the local guy over him, and I guess it got back to DH. A few weeks later, he called for another meeting to berate me and tear me down, and he brought it up claiming that he had never attempted to blame me for the mistake and had only forwarded it to me for my information. “See I only wrote FYI on the email,” he said, with this smug look on his face which all too clearly said “You can’t prove what I did to you.”