It has been more than two days since I put the post “Ed Smith pulls a Melania Trump” up. In that time, I had written to the Economist (“Letters to the editor”) to ascertain the author(s) of the piece “Stress: What makes us stronger“; Multiple people on Twitter tagged Ed Smith on Twitter with my blogpost asking for clarification; I had written to the editor of ESPNcricinfo asking for an explanation; I also had written to the contact email available on Ed Smith website, as well as sending a tweet to him intimating of the same.
I have not received any response or comment from any of them, as I write this follow up post.
However, this morning, I went back to the ESPNcricinfo piece that Ed Smith had written “Why sportsmen need stress” to see whether the link was still alive (It is) and if there were any changes to it. (There is).
As of July 29, 2016 (7:58:48 GMT), ESPN Cricinfo had updated the article with an attribution: “As the Economist explored recently”.
There is a note at the bottom of the article explaining the update.
If the fine print is hard to read, here is what it says: “07:58:48 GMT, July 29, 2016: This attribution was added on 29th July. The author, who has taken an interest in the study of stress and written on the subject for many years, wanted to acknowledge the Economist‘s survey of the subject”.
Based on this update, it would be very reasonable to conclude Ed Smith did not have an exclusive hand in the article published by the Economist and had originally reproduced with minimal changes several passages from that article in his ESPNcricinfo piece.
Even as the attribution has been added now, Ed Smith’s article still maintains and retains all of the material it appears to have lifted from the Economist article. And it isn’t clear how adding “As the Economist explored recently” applies to the rest of the paragraphs that follow the one where the attribution has been made.
Are we to think that the attribution (which has been without a link to the Economist article even though that article exists online) applies to everything that follows it, or is it only to the paragraph in which it appears?
The big question is: If Ed Smith knew that he was lifting several paragraphs from the Economist, why didn’t he choose to acknowledge it in the first place? No explanation has come on that front. If it was just an oversight, for someone who is a columnist and a commentator, but more importantly the Director of an M.A. course on “History of Sport” at the University of Buckingham where he is responsible for molding the minds of younger citizens of this world, it is a major oversight, and full open responsibility needs to be taken rather than a sly appended attribution.
What is ESPNcricinfo’s role in this? They have been handed a not-so-original piece without them knowing about it in the first place, and by willingly adding that attribution (without anyone knowing really, unless you go back to the article and look for it), they seem to be condoning the practice. The most reasonable thing for ESPNcricinfo to do would have been to take the article down and publicly provide a note as to why they had done that.
Remember the line from American author Tom Petri, “It isn’t the original scandal that gets people in the most trouble, it’s the attempted cover-up”.