Patrick Poivre d’Arvor: about the art of copy & paste

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Reviewed on 01/6/2011 | No Reviews

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Famous French tv journalist accused of plagiarism

If you’ve never lived in France, you probably don’t know Patrick Poivre d’Arvor. In which case I feel very sorry for you. You’ve really missed something.
Photo: AFP, Bertrand Langlois

PPDA, as he is called here, was the anchorman of TF1, France’s main private channel, and he’s always good for a laugh. He actually stopped presenting the news in 2008 – but he never disappeared from screen: PPDA  is on TV every night in form of a latex puppet at Les guignols de l’info, the very popular satirical show on Canal Plus television. In this show he is himself: the anchorman. So French, so cynical. Everybody loves him for it.

The thing is, Mr. Poivre d’Arvor seems to be as cynical in real life. From time to time he is involved in a nice scandal that usually gives an idea aof his professional ethics and French standards of journalism in general.

Faking an interview with Fidel Castro

Patrick Poivre D'Avor's latex puppet at the "Guignols"

In the past, he was accused of faking an interview (with Fidel Castro, yes!) and receiving embezzled funds. Now he is accused of plagiarizing a Hemingway biography.

Now Mr. Poivre d’Arvor is being accused  of lifting almost 100 pages of material from an American Hemingway-biography and putting them into his own book about Hemingway which is due to be published in January (Hemingway, la vie jusqu’à l’excès. Les Editions Arthaud). His model seems to be the book that the American author Peter M. Griffin published in 1985, called “Along with Youth: Hemingway, the Early years” – which was translated into French four years later, but is out of print now.

Comparing the two versions is stunning

Shit happens? Well, compilation can be a  writing tool and is not necessarily a crime in itself. But when you have a look at certain paragraphs and you realize that PPDA hardly changed any words, well, than the whole things really looks a bit more hideous. The French newspapers took great pleasure in showing the two versions one beside the other. Gosh, I wouldn’t like to be in his shoes.

The magazine L’Express that came out with the allegations, went much further,  talking about “copy and paste”.  The colleague of L’Express is shocked at the fact that “even the structure of the two biographies, the storytelling, the way the historical events fit in, the descriptions of landscapes (….), and the quoted parts of his correspondence match perfectly”.

A handwritten dedication on a working draft

His publisher, Atrhaud, pretends that a first version of the book was mistakenly released in December and that this version was only a “working draft version”. Funny though, that the editor in chief of L’Express, Christophe Barbier, had personally received a copy of the book in mid-December with, guess what? A handwritten dedication from PPDA “en fidèle amitié”.

And he himself? In the meanwhile PPDA issued a press release saying the same thing and pretending that this “working draft” was also intended to be a document for a future movie about Hemingway. Don’t ask me why they publish working drafts in book form – which is, if it’s not a lie, pretty pretentious.

Credibility in journalism?

If we are to believe his puppet on Canal Plus – and why shouldn’t we after all - all this is not a big deal. At Les guignols de l’info PPDA was asked by his colleague-puppet if this allegations wouldn’t harm his credibility and whether he was thinking of giving up his job as a puppet-anchorman. Of course not, the PPDA-puppet replied.   “Credibility in journalism”, he wondered ? Since when?  “You really must be very naïve!”

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