I'm faced with a dilemma.
I've written about my experience as English editor at the university newspaper. During my short time in this position I've run a gamut of emotions - from anger to stress to apathy. As hopeless as I feel this newspaper is with its government influenced content, I still feel some ethical pull to do right by it.
Last week, I was editing a story and found out that one of the reporters had stolen part of an article from the newsletter I published and put it under his own byline. This didn't exactly surprise me, as I had already guessed plagiarism was a common practice among these reporters. When one sentence reads like the author shuffled the words and dealt them out in a random order and then next boasts a stronger vocabulary and grammatical style than my own, you can tell something fishy is going on.
Well, I had given the reporter my editing comments and asked him to rewrite the article using his own words, but when I saw the printed version just as I had written it in my newsletter, I knew it was time to voice my concerns. Yes, I'm just the "English editor" in their eyes, and as much as I try for my own sanity to keep from shrouding their articles with comments on the depth (or lack thereof) of content, I have an ethical duty to the profession.
Now, I'm not the best with confrontation. I turn splotchy. I sweat a lot. My voice gets louder and quivers a bit. It's even harder when as a 23-year-old foreigner I have to have this kind of discussion with a boss of sorts who is twice my age. But I had to suck it up.
So I talked with the managing editor about my concerns. About how using other people's work and calling your own is not only unethical and unprofessional but can lead to all sorts of legal debacles.
Of course I'm met with all the usual excuses. "Oh, our staff is so small." "We just want to sleep at night."
I try to explain these practices will only hurt them in the long run, whether another paper or reporter sues them for plagiarism or an editor refuses to hire them because their work obviously isn't their own.
Well, the managing editor came to the conclusion that I'm the English editor and just that. He's going to continue on with his practices. Sleep well at night. Do his best to smile at work. Claim ignorance when called out on the subject again.
This, I'm learning, is the Cambodian way.
So here lies my dilemma. I'm working for a paper that no one reads. The editors are using me for my English fluency, not giving a darn about my reporting sense. I'm only going to be working here a few more months. If I want, I can really slack off on this job. Of course, my conscience would never let me do such a thing, but really, where does my duty lie?
Do I simply continue on as the English editor and turn an ignorant eye to all the other horrible practices taking place at the paper? Should I continue to raise these ethical issues and try to insist on professional reporting practices, even if it makes me look like the crazy foreign know-it-all? At what point do I drop my title as a temporary hired help and voice my opinions on important issues? Throw in that cross-cultural context and you can understand the muddled mess I find myself in.
I'm not sure if I'll figure out my exact role here before I leave. I'm not even sure if solutions to these sorts of problems are ever truly realized.
I will take this opportunity to open this up as a forum for discussion. Those of you in communications fields (and even those who aren't), what would you do in this sort of situation? Have you ever faced a similar problem?