Why is Charisma News Claiming Credit for an Article About Mark Driscoll Authored by Lyall Mercer? (UPDATED)

UPDATE (3/24): This is getting comical. Now Charisma News has changed the Mark Driscoll v. The Enemy Within article byline to Christian News Service. So far, the article has been written by four people/organizations (Bill Roberts, Russ Jones, Charisma News Staff, and now CNS). However, the real author, Lyall Mercer is still being obscured and the Christian News Service has removed the article from the CNS website.

(Back to the original post)
I have asked Charisma News this question three times with no answer. How ironic that in an article on plagiarism and Mark Driscoll, Charisma claims authorship for an article penned by someone else and which initially required payment to be published as a press release.
Here is a summary of the situation. Yesterday morning, Russ Jones at Christian News Service published  a press release submitted by Lyall Mercer, a public relationship consultant. Initially, it was not clear to me that the piece was a press release because Russ Jones’ name was provided at the beginning of the article, as if under his authorship. I was not alone in this assumption. Journalist Ruth Graham also thought so and tweeted this observation. When Mr. Jones became aware that readers misunderstood the nature of Mercer’s submission, he informed me that the piece was a paid press release and changed the byline to “admin.” He later removed the press release from his website (Google cache).
At some point yesterday after the press release was posted to CNS’s website, Charisma News copied the release, placed Bill Roberts name on it as a byline and published it on their website with a modified title. I then alerted Charisma that Bill Roberts was not the author and Charisma then changed the authorship to Russ Jones. When I informed them that Mercer, not Jones, was the author, Charisma changed the authorship to “Charisma News Staff.” Since then, Charisma has received much criticism on Twitter and in the comments section of the Mercer-authored article. Last evening, they removed the comments section but left the article intact, except for the addition of one vague reference to a “press release.”
To me, it is disappointing that Charisma would publish a complete press release under another writer’s byline. Press releases should be labeled as such so that readers can evaluate the credibility of the “news” in the release. In this case, if the article was properly labeled, readers would know that the author of the “article” cites himself as an expert and paid to have it originally published. The addition of the one reference to an unnamed, unsourced press release doesn’t sufficiently improve the situation (see screen capture comparing the CNS version with the Charisma version).
In this case, I know I have a good, working email since I received a reply to my earlier inquiry. I am open to being corrected and listening to an alternative narrative but at this point, knowing what I know, I can only assume that Charisma has the correct information and has simply decided to obscure the facts.

Who Wrote the Puff Piece on Mark Driscoll? (UPDATED)

It is a Friday afternoon mystery.
UPDATE3: Christian News Service removed the Lyall Mercer article from the CNS website.
On the other hand, Charisma “News Service” removed all comments and closed the section. Apparently, they really don’t want their readers to know the truth about that article. Honestly, I am pretty surprised about the decision to go with deception over truth.
UPDATE1: Some of the mystery is solved. Russ Jones at Christian News Service wrote with the following information about the article on his site:

This was a PAID news release by Australian-based Mercer PR sent out at 9:30am CST. The owners name is Lyall Mercer.

So apparently Bill Roberts simply took the news release, tweaked it ever so slightly and put his byline on it. The American Copy Editors Society’s book on plagiarism, Telling the Truth and Nothing But addresses this situation on page 12:

UPDATE2: Charisma News let me know that they have changed the byline to Russ Jones (now Charisma changed the byline to “Charisma News Staff“). As we now know, that’s closer but still not right. I think Charisma should just remove the article and apologize for it. At the least, they should change the by-line to Lyall Mercer so readers are aware of the self-serving nature of the piece.
(Original post resumes below)
Who really wrote this puff piece on how beleaguered Mark Driscoll is being attacked by “the enemy within” (AKA Janet Mefferd and the former members and leaders of Mars Hill Church).  Is it Bill Roberts or Russ Jones or did Lyall Mercer really write it?
First look at this Charisma News article.

Then take a look at this Christian New Service article.

Notice anything similar about them? As in they are essentially identical.
Journalist Ruth Graham first pointed this out on Twitter:


— Ruth Graham (@publicroad) March 21, 2014

I think the order was CNS first, then Charisma but maybe not. In any case, I wrote both places  to ask.  Whoever wrote it, it comes across as an advertisement for Lyall Mercer’s curious views on church PR. Remember pastors — who need to be pastors and not celebrities — that the first thing to do when people call you to accountability is to call the PR person to make sure your apologetic messaging will respond strategically to the nasty messengers who bring the facts.
Note to CharismaNews, it certainly isn’t news. A news story would have included commentary from Janet Mefferd and some of the former pastors and members who are going public with their concerns and experiences while at Mars Hill.
Probably the best thing for both places to do is to take the article down and start over with some real journalism.