Neil Harman has resigned from the International Tennis Writers’ Association, the organisation of which he was co-president, after he was shown to have copied large chunks of other journalists’ work and used it in the Wimbledon Yearbook.
In his resignation letter, Harman described his plagiarism in the yearbook as “shoddy work”.
The backlash which has followed has seen Harman’s personal Facebook page hacked by someone who altered his profile to describe him as “the former tennis correspondent of The Times“; while Harman has been suspended by his newspaper, he has not left The Times.
As a consequence of the online furore, Harman has abandoned his social media accounts on Twitter and Facebook.
Harman has been tennis correspondent of The Times since 2002 and edited the Wimbledon Yearbook for a decade. He will no longer hold that role, after the American-based online magazine Slate found more than 30 instances of plagiarism in the 2013 yearbook, with passages copied from a number of American newspapers, as well as The Guardian and Sports Illustrated, and used without attribution.
Harman, an SJA member, is a past winner at the SJA’s British Sports Journalism Awards and has been regularly short-listed for prizes for his newspaper reporting; our independent awards judges check that the portfolios submitted are the entrants’ own unique and original work.
Today, Harman told sportsjournalists.co.uk, “I have been humbled at the levels of support shown to me by people from all levels of tennis – players, officials, agents and the media. I’m not sure I deserve all the nice messages I’ve received. Their message has tended to be, ‘You’ve made mistakes, everybody makes mistakes. You’ve admitted to your mistakes’.”
Harman’s resignation letter to the ITWA states:
“I am writing to you as co-President to inform you that I have decided to resign from ITWA and do so with a heavy heart but it is clear that I have no alternative.
“It has been brought to my attention that I have severely compromised my position as a member, having used unattributed material to form part of my writing of the Wimbledon Yearbook. There can be no excuse for such shoddy work, which I deeply regret. I did it without malice aforethought, but that I did it at all is simply inexcusable.
“I sincerely had no idea the extent to which I had let the Club, myself and my colleagues down and feel it is only right that I relinquish my membership. This is a marked stain on my reputation and (I hope) good name.
“When Wimbledon first informed me that they had been made aware of this lack of professionalism, I immediately told those British writers who were attending the Davis Cup tie in Naples. Since then, I realise that I had made several errors which are unconscionable. It is far better for all concerned that I resign my membership.
“As a founder member of the association, I am exceedingly proud of its many achievements in opening up the game more to the media, our excellent facilities worldwide and the ability of our members to mingle more with players to the enhancement of our working practices. I relished my time as president, and believe I contributed much to the advancement of our profession.
“But I have allowed my standards to slide, more than is acceptable.
“As I am typing this, I see on Twitter an ‘inspirational quote’ which reads ‘the past cannot be changed, forgotten, edited or erased, it can only be accepted’. I hope that I remain accepted as part of the tennis-writing community I love so deeply, as much as I have wronged many of its members.
“I wish you well in your future endeavours and may ITWA go from strength to strength. We have made great strides, the sport is better for a stronger media unit, I remain committed to the cause and always will be.”
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