This could have been bad.
I’m currently writing an article about traveling the New Silk Road for Bloomberg and did the usual array of interviews, etc. One of those interviews was with the director of Xi’an Silk Road Chamber of Commerce. I only had a few, overtly simple questions, so I just sent them over by email. The guy responded within a day.
So far, so normal.
But as I was writing the story up for some reason I started getting a little suspicious of his responses. I’m really not sure what set me off exactly… So I took one of his “quotes” and did a web search for it.
“In Xi’an’s popular Muslim market, the scent of cumin hangs thick in the air over stalls where pomegranate juice and Arabic bread are sold. Lamb, not usually a Han Chinese favorite, is grilled over charcoal braziers.”
A stream of results came back. Shit. It appeared to have been directly lifted from this story here: In ancient city of Xi’an, China hopes to restart the Silk Road.
So I looked up another one of his quotes.
“The Terracotta Warriors attract the most attention but Xi’an’s Muslim Quarter is a real gem and a human link to the city’s illustrious past.”
It was the opening sentence of this article here.
I ran another of his responses.
“Tang West Market was built at the original site of the west market in Chang’an city of Tang Dynasty (618-907). It was the starting point of ancient Silk Road.”
It came from here.
In all the years that I’ve been doing this work I don’t believe I’ve ever had this happen. The guy just cobbled together his responses from already published material. But I have to wonder if it wouldn’t have taken him at least as much time — if not more — to do this than responding directly with original commentary?
I could go into a discussion of how in China copying what someone else says isn’t the crime that it is in the USA, but I won’t. It was overtly clear that I was interviewing him for original commentary and that I have the ability to do a web search and read previously published articles myself.
I usually don’t do email interviews, and this is one of the reasons why. I took a shortcut for expediency — and the fact that I only had a couple brief, incredibly simple questions — and it nearly backfired.
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