Arne Halvorsen, plagiarist

Lars Ruben Hirsch reports that Aftenposten's Latin America correspondent Arne Halvorsen has plagiarized an article from Newsweek:

On July 8, Aftenposten, Norway's most influential newspaper, published an article by correspondent Arne Halvorsen. The article seemed strangely familiar. Just a few days earlier I had read an article in Newsweek on the same theme. Come to think about it, it even used the same catchphrase, "Latin America's lost decade". I decided to take a closer look at the two articles. It turned out that Halvorsen's article is mainly a translation and rewrite of the article from Newsweek, but some phrases are not even rewritten but just translated almost word by word (see bullet 11 below).

Halvorsen's article was published as an Opinion, which in Aftenposten is supposed to be an independent analysis. None of the articles contained a reference to any third source, nor did the article in Aftenposten contain a reference to the article in Newsweek. In an email July 12, I told editorial manager Klaus Børringbo at Aftenposten about the issue and asked him to comment, but I did not receive an answer. July 15 I sent another email with a detailed point-for-point comparison of the articles.

Norwegian readers can compare Halvorsen's article with Scott Johnson's themselves, and for the rest of you Lars Ruben has translated a long list of examples.

I've taken a close look at the articles - plagiarism is a serious accusation. Out of 16 paragraphs in Halvorsen's article, 6 are almost fully stolen from Newsweek, 1 fully borrows an argument but uses different words, 3 contain individual stolen sentences, and 2 sum up the theme of the original article. Only 4 paragraphs at the end, which explain basic Brazilian and Argentinian politics, are Halvorsen's own. Scott Johnson's article is much longer, but one third of the content (almost the entire first third) has found its way into Halvorsen's article.

Arne Halvorsen has rewritten a third of Newsweek's article, using Newsweek's quotes, Newsweek's trains of thought, and Newsweek's examples, adding only a few supplementary facts. The words are largely Newsweek's, translated into Norwegian. Only the order of presentation is different. I believe I'm on safe ground when I agree with Lars Ruben: this is plagiarism.

Lars Ruben wrote about this on July 16, and still (apparently) hasn't received a reply from Aftenposten. That's a bad sign. I've looked at other recent articles by Halvorsen and run some quick checks on Google News without finding anything suspicious. Until proven otherwise, I'll assume this is a singular occurence. Silence from Aftenposten won't increase my confidence, though.


Has anyone told Scott Johnson he's been plagiarized? I imagine he would be more than willing to send a complaint -- possibly also a bill for whatever he (or Newsweek) would have been paid if Aftenposten had reprinted his article with his name on it in the usual legal and honest way.

Lars Ruben notified Newsweek but hasn't got a response yet. I assume they'll pick this up.

I didn't find this as disturbing as many of the other posters here. That in itself worries me slightly, but okay - here is my thoughts.

We have the original newsweek article.

Then we have a rewrite by aftenposten into Norwegian, with maybe a few slices of information added, and other parts removed.

After reading both articles, I sit with aproximately the same information from both (a bit more from the Newsweek one), but with a slightly different slant.

However, it's not copy-paste. It's a rewrite with the same information, but using another persons information gathering. It would be a Good Thing to give credit to the information-gatherer, but I don't think it's necessary. But that might be me.

Even when reading Lars Rubens direct comparison, I couldn't get myself to be upset, because I thought it was quite different.

Personally I think the reason Aftenposten hasn't responded is that they disagree, but disagree in the same way that I disagree -- and they don't know what to write in a reply as they think they'll confirm some bloggers suspicion, while at the same time thinking of themselves as innocents.

Personally I consider them quite innoncent.

Rune-Kristian: It's a clever rewrite, because the order has been changed enough to make the similarity less obvious. But I've studied Halvorsen's article sentence for sentence, and I stand by all the figures I gave of how much of it is stolen. And with stolen I mean that for every sentence there is a semantically equal sentence in the original article, saying almost exactly the same thing.

If this doesn't fall under the newspaper definition of plagiarism, it's certainly deeply embarassing. Consider how this must have been written. Apart from the introduction and the end there's not a single original thought here, and most of the sentences are modelled on the original.


Rune-Kristian: Hvis dette ikke er et plagiat, så er det i det minste flaut. Jeg har gått gjennom artikkelen i Aftenposten setning for setning, og alle tallene stemmer. Prøv å se for deg hvordan dette må ha blitt skrevet. Du finner knapt en eneste original tanke i Halvorsen's artikkel, og selv om noen eksempler er utbrodert litt er majoriteten av setningene bygget opp på samme måte som hos Newsweek.

Halvorsen har vært smart nok til å bytte rekkefølgen på mye av det som blir sagt, så likheten er ikke lett å få øye på. Men hvis du leser artikkelen nøye ser du at meningsinnholdet, setning for setning, er nøyaktig det samme i store deler av artikkelen.

[Now compare these two versions. Can you honestly say that the second is different from the first?]


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Media Culpa: More plagiarism in Scandinavian media, August 2, 2004 03:48 PM

I recently wrote about accusations of plagiarism at Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter. And now new accusations are made, this time in Norway.

JKL Blog: Aftenposten accused of plagiarism, August 4, 2004 09:40 AM

Several weeks ago The Stockholm Spectator broke a story involving allegations of plagiarism at Dagens Nyheter. The piece, though well-founded and thoroughly researched, didn’t get any play in Sweden’s mainstream media. Now a Norwegian blogger has u...

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