Here we are with a fine opportunity to write about Spain.
We have a newspaper or a magazine, together with some bloke who is going to wander around the bars and sell advertising, another chap with an old van who says he knows the area well and will deliver, a young wiz-kid for the layout on the computer and a printer up in Ciudad Real who won’t charge too much.
Between the adverts in the mag, we are going to have spaces, which will need filling. We are going to need a writer.
Now, the given. We are in Spain; we are continually learning about this country and we are all, readers and publisher alike, part of the same great adventure.
So, let’s print articles about lipstick. Articles about the North American fox, about fennel, Coronation Street, Tony Blair, Red China, Marks and Spencer’s, Manchester, fajitas, Iraq, facelifts and the price of strawberries… in Oxford.
There’s a splendid opportunity to write about sports (if such a thing grabs you), about the victory of the Spanish basketball team, the Spanish Grand Prix champion, our cycling and of course, our football. But no, with the exception of the odd incoherency about or from David Beckham, we are treated to articles about Fulham or Arsenal.
To remind us further that we are now living in Spain – presumably at our own free will – we are offered the week’s or even month’s television entertainment. The Sky satellite service from Britain.
With rare exceptions, the articles we reproduce for your reading pleasure will appear unsigned. Yet, some poor joe wrote them. Writers usually get tuppence for their efforts anyway, but they do like to see their name in print. When one of our local newspapers prints some piece – apparently to fit some hole on page nineteen next to the advert about cesspit repairs (seventeen years experience) – as often as not, there will be no credit of a writer.
In The Euro Weekly, there are hardly any articles at all with writers’ names attached. Even when the essay starts with an ‘I’. It’s not the only offender.
Much of the material which appears in our local newspapers and magazines, if not about Spain, the process of living in Spain, the culture of Spain, the language, geography, history, traditions, people, food, politics, art and literature of Spain, appears to have one thing in common, one general point of union. The articles will come from the Internet.
You can imagine. ‘Geoff, I’ve got a hole on page 32’. ‘Don’t worry, Alice, I’ve found a bit on the Pyramids’.
Unless you have paid for it, or have a signed letter from the writer or the agent, this is called plagiarism. There is a handy program on the Internet to compare an article with another published one. It’s at www.copyscape.com
Another kind of scrip will sometimes float around in a newspaper. Sometimes it will be labelled ‘advertising feature’ and sometimes not. It will be an article handed in by an advertiser with, let’s say ‘not entirely impartial recommendations’ regarding building, eating, investing, shopping and buying a second hand car. Since these ‘puffs’ are invariably set in Spain, the reader might fall upon them with more enthusiasm than they in fact merit.
I like good writers. I think that they make a newspaper worth picking up. I think they entertain and educate the reader. I think a good writer is worth paying something. I think it’s an opportunity worth taking.
Forget plagiarism, cynical and bad editing and gratuitous puff pieces. Ask to read something decent about Spain.