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Editorial: "Thou shalt not steal," Bruce

Mon 17 Oct 2005 In: Features

Bruce Logan Several of New Zealand's major dailies face a credibility crisis following revelations that regular columnist and Maxim Institute director Bruce Logan has been stealing his published material word-for-word and unattributed from overseas sources. Remember how cheated you felt when you were younger and someone told you your favourite new band's latest hit single was actually just a cover version of an old Supremes hit from the sixties? It's a feeling no doubt rippling through the editorial offices of several of New Zealand's major newspapers right now, following the release of evidence showing that the director of the anti-gay Christian think-tank Maxim Institute, Bruce Logan, has something approaching a PhD in “cut and paste” when it comes to his “thought-provoking” op-ed pieces. For the last few years, Logan's columns (often anti-gay – sometimes overtly, sometimes covertly) have appeared in dailies such as the NZ Herald, the Christchurch Press, the Otago Daily Times, and the Northland Age. However, an investigation by The Fundy Post released today shows that Logan has been lifting entire passages for his columns wholesale from overseas sources, without attribution. These revelations come hard on the heels of the Press's dismissal of its occasional columnist and Maxim supporter Alexis Stuart for cribbing material from Logan's columns. After a concerned reader pointed out the similarities between one of Stuart's recent Press columns and a Logan piece from the Northland Age, the Press responded swiftly with an apology, fearing for its reputation. Not only did it reveal that Stuart was actually Logan's daughter, it announced that Stuart would no longer be writing for the paper. A wise move indeed. But can we expect the same from the other dailies which have been similarly duped into unwittingly being mouthpieces for, the Fundy Post has discovered, American extreme right-wing think tanks and 'back to the stone age' pressure groups like the Heritage Foundation? Other anti-gay Logan diatribes against New Zealand's civil union legislation were lifted wholesale from UK and US writers. This is a huge credibility issue for our daily newspapers, a fact which the Press recognised with its swift response to Stuart's deception. has, in the past, requested that the NZ Herald in particular be more honest about the credentials of the writers for its opinion pages, following the publication of anti-gay articles last year by American Maxim writer Samuel Gregg (billed as a writer from the Acton Institute) and Neil Whitehead (a fundamentalist Baptist billed as a scientist). This new information about Logan goes far beyond a writer's credentials – we're talking about content. It is certainly unethical, and in certain cases illegal, to plagiarise the work of another person. Can these newspapers be held liable if it is shown a columnist has repeatedly done this? During's investigations of the Maxim Institute last year, we attempted several times to interview Bruce Logan, without success. As head of Maxim's research department, we had a number of questions we wanted to ask him about the Institute's misleading use of statistics, their out-of-context and, in some cases, completely fabricated quoting. To be blunt, he was shielded tighter than a cock in an extra-strength French letter. The gatekeepers in the Auckland and Christchurch Maxim offices simply would not let us speak to him – all questions had to be forwarded in writing. At least we now know why. Any interview we conducted over the telephone would have immediately given the game away, what with the background sounds of simultaneous page-flipping and the typing of “help me” into Google. And what of the Maxim Institute's privileged tax-free status, granted by Inland Revenue? With mounting evidence that both Maxim's “research” and commentary are second-hand, cribbed from overseas sources, what is Maxim's $1.5m annual budget actually being used for, and do their activities constitute an abuse of their tax-exempt privileges as an “educational charity”? What's more, Maxim tell us their funding is derived entirely from donations. With their office premises gifted, their research recycled, and even their analysis “borrowed”, what is actually left to spend that money on? What bang are Maxim's supporters actually getting for their buck? It's time they, and we, had some honest, original answers. Chris Banks - 17th October 2005    

Credit: Chris Banks

First published: Monday, 17th October 2005 - 12:00pm

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