Bristow-Bovey 'pleads guilty'

2003-09-11 11:28

Cape Town - Freelance journalist and author Darrel Bristow-Bovey has come out to answer allegations of plagiarism after months of fierce criticisms and calls for his head. He also apologises for the "mistake".

Bristow-Bovey, who freelances for Independent Newspapers Group and other publications, recently made headlines for importing passages from Bill Bryson's Notes From a Big Country to his book The Naked Bachelor.

In a column in Business Day on Thursday, Bristow-Bovey explains that while all the questionable material gathered together wouldn't fill one side of a page, "that does not dim the principle".

"My book was accused of containing material - jokes - that have been used before, and can be found in other books of humour. I obviously took inspiration from PJ O'Rourke's Bachelor Home Companion... it contains a couple of sentences which may be found, in substantially similar form, in Billy Bryson's Notes From a Big Country.

'I must plead guilty'

"I must plead guilty," Bristow-Bovey says.

The scandal, which was first exposed by Saturday Star (also in the Independent Newspapers Group's stable), saw Rob Boffard accuse Bristow-Bovey of plagiarism.

What followed was a hot debate in the media, characterised by criticisms of Bristow-Bovey's journalstic intergrity. Naturally, those who felt the criticisms were unwarranted defended Bristow-Bovey saying his journalistic capabilities were unquestionable.

'Thoughtlessly imported'

In the Business Day column, Bristow-Bovey says that in his entire journalistic career he has never sat down with someone's book open in front of himself, copying out a joke, "but I did consult Bryson's book as a source for some statistics he quotes... and I thoughtlessly imported... a throwaway joke".

"This was wrong of me," he continues, adding that when the allegations erupted he was horrified and wrote a letter to the "injured parties" and "begging for their pardon".

Asked by Saturday Star's Rob Boffard, in an interview before the allegations emerged, Bristow-Bovey is said to have responded to the allegations by saying: "One reads, one adapts things. I have the kind of memory that remembers things like this. I may have done the same thing with other pieces of information from all over the place. I'm sure if you really examine the book, you will find hundreds of these."

Continuing to explain his role in the affair, Bristow-Bovey says in his Business Day column that he has never before been accused of plagiarism and that it won't happen again. But for the one-time Mondi award winner the saga will remain a reminder that plagiarism and copyright infringement are taken seriously in South Africa.