The strange case of Rafael Ramos

La Vanguardia’s London correspondent can’t write English, passes off fiction as fact and is a rampant plagiarist.

Mr Ramos published a Blair-bashing piece in the online edition (subscription only) of the local paper, La Vanguardia, the other day.

Illiteracy

Mr Ramos’ spelling failure rate in this particular article is some 10%. Here are bloopers from his first para:

succesful, carismatic, spanish, british, P.M, aggresion, progressist, occassionally, aids, Thrid, speakes, TPI, primer, australian, hawkishs, un, iraqui, ocuupied

Here’s my favourite sentence:

But then he is a ‘friend’ of the ‘evil’ in person (George W. Bush), and also of the ‘very much right’ spanish primer minister Jose Maria Aznar, and the ‘very much right’ australian prime minister John Howard, and ignores international legality to please his ‘neocon’ hawkishs friends in Washington, and justifies the so called ‘war’ even if the weapons of mass destruction have become a mirage un the iraqui desert (Spain is a pacifist country, you know, despite what the government does and says, ninety per cent of the population was very much against ‘Operation Iraq Liberty (OIL), and one of the main squares in Barcelona is still ocuupied by protesters).

This linguistic inadequacy is extraordinary in someone who – according to his profile – was Washington correspondent for 17 years and has been in London for the paper since 1994. I mailed La Vanguardia Wednesday to point this out, but they have not replied. Just out of interest, I checked with the Foreign Press Association in London. Unusually for a British-based foreign correspondent, Ramos is not on their database. It seems fair to wonder whether Ramos has ever worked in an English-speaking country, which brings me to the next issue.

Inaccuracy

Ramos’ piece is a straightforward (drunken?) ad hominem attack on Blair, but in some other work he appears to aspire to fact-based journalism. In a previous effort, La historia de A. y de K., he advertises two major Spanish tourist destinations:

The search for a new computer took me to my friend, K, who is – or who was – a Sony salesman in Baker Street, near the pub The Globe and almost opposite the house-museum of Sherlock Holmes… From time to time I drop by the Sony shop on Baker Street and ask after my friend K.

I used to have the odd beer in the pub he mentions and, although the Sony shop is indeed nearby, to get to the Holmes museum you need to cross the busy Marylebone Road and walk some 300m. This may just be a silly mistake, but I refuse to believe that anyone who has lived in London for nine years could – as he does – identify Aldershot as “a north London suburb.” That’s like confusing Tarragona with Barcelona’s Poble Nou district: Aldershot is a large town 60km southwest of London. If he doesn’t know this then he’s lying in either his piece or his profile.

Plagiarism

I’m a mild cricket fan, so the next article I opened was Cricket y bombas (14:40, October 16th, 2001). It contains uncredited information that could not have been obtained directly from a desk in London, so I googled it and discovered that The Times and The Guardian published articles filed from Peshawar and Islamabad in their morning editions on the 16th. Although the wording is different, I have been unable to find data in his article which are not present in the work of their writers, respectively Stephen Farrell and Luke Harding. (Alex Spillius filed the same story for The Daily Telegraph from Islamabad, but I haven’t had time to check it. Neither have I had time to cross-check any of his other stories.) Did Mr Ramos fly to Pakistan or did he just nick someone else’s story?

So…

I always thought that the three mortal sins for a journalist were poor writing, factual inaccuracy, and the unattributed use of colleagues’ work. I’m sure Mr Ramos and La Vanguardia will be keen to clear this up as soon as possible.

Similar posts


Comments

  1. Trevor, you know that ‘corresponsal en Londres’ means ‘once went to London on holiday.’ (How can I get into the original articles?)

  2. Go get him. I remember a couple of terrific Ramos gaffes from when he was in the States; once he wrote a piece on how much he dug baseball and really got totally into it, in which he referred to Yankees all-Star Don Mattingly as a pitcher. He was, of course, a first baseman. This is like bragging about how much you understand soccer and then calling Zidane Real Madrid’s goalkeeper.

    One when he was in England and some new Beatles book or CD or something came out, Ramos got himself an interview with Brian Epstein, whom he identified as the Beatles’ legendary manager. Mr. Epstein has, of course, been dead since 1967

  3. Dear people, you’re getting it all wrong. Ramos (if that is his real name) is a virtual journalist and probably makes a living in a Barcelona suburb helping old ladies compose their wills. His sister’s probably married to someone on LV’s board. The only difference between him and Jayson Blair is that Blair did actually visit some of the places and people he described and could actually write. Given the morning papers, a brain haemorrhage and a keyboard, anyone can write a Rafael Ramos article.

  4. Crec que aquest pàgina és una sèrie de temes totament subjectius, de nul interès excepte per a qui els escriu.
    Sembla que formi part d’una batalla personal de desprestigi contra el Sr. Ramos, amb finalitats que se m’escapen.
    Com a lector de La Vanguardia discrepo amb el fons global que es pretén transmetres, si bé és cert que els detalls esmentats són opinables i fins i tot criticables, però em semblen irrellevants.

  5. On the contrary, I have no personal knowledge of, nor feelings about, Mr Ramos. If you think that what is presented here is disputable, then go ahead and dispute it. If you think that plagiarism, invention and poor writing are irrelevant to journalism, then you are living on a different planet from the rest of us.

  6. Trevor: “If you think that plagiarism, invention and poor writing are irrelevant to journalism, then you are living on a different planet from the rest of us.” And what could that planet be? Planet Catalonia perhaps?

    This chap, Marc Torras, will probably buy any journalistic crap La Vanguardia bothers to upload on their website, regardless of factual accuracy. Remember, La Vanguardia’s a Catalonian newspaper. And you don’t mess around with Catalonian institutions. After all, if Barcelona FC ‘is more than a club’, I’d not like to think what La Vanguardia stands for…

  7. Fascinating site. If he’s importing the highest quality at the lowest prices from an authoritarian country then he’s got an ethical problem all of his very own.

  8. Almost three years pass. I bought La Vanguardia on 17th June 2006 and, being narcissistic, noticed my surname in a headline on page 4, this article being about Alan Johnson as an alternative to Gordon Brown.

    Has, in your opinion, Mr Ramos got any more accurate?

  9. Dear Mr Dickens, I’m afraid I haven’t got an opinion – I rarely touch La Vanguardia now my Spanish is OK. I assume Raffa-boy is still nicking and faking and being tolerated by management for whatever reason. He was caught red-handed yet again a couple of months ago with something which wouldn’t normally have been available on the web but which someone posted on their blog or whatever. I suppose that’s his way of showing respect for his sources.

  10. I’ts nice to get a bit of info from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. I like your messing about with language with Kalebøl. I translate from both Dutch and Danish, so I realise the puns involved with bald, executioner, and so on. Why did you abandon La Vanguardia, now that your Spanish is OK? I buy it because it’s the only newspaper I can get locally here in the Netherlands where you can read readers’ letters in Catalan (though nothing else, apart from death notices and adverts). I’ll look at some of your other blogs.

  11. Dutch and Danish sound like an interesting combination. Spanish and Catalan are too close to be a huge amount of fun.

    LaVa never says anything really interesting because it’s much too close to the local establishment, and I find much of its foreign coverage frankly embarrassing. There’s the occasional good local history/culture stuff from guys like Lluís Permanyer, but that’s about it for me. I’m closer to El Mundo in political terms but find it threadbare and doctrinaire, so I usually end up reading El País and avoiding most of the columnists. There’s various stuff in Catalan online – El Punt, El Periódico, Racó Català – if you’re after the voice of the people.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *