‘for the most part that stopped the plagiarism’

Except it didn’t: 

Mainstream media ignored blogs, occasionally stole from, then adopted the format wholesale.

Today, the blog format — short, pithy posts focused on a single subject, published irregularly — has been widely adopted by the mainstream media. The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times and The Washington Post all make extensive use of blogs — many of which are excellent.

But it was not always that way. In the early days, mainstream journalists were comfortable “borrowing” freely from blogs without attribution — not so much as a quote or a link to the original piece.

An effective response was needed to embarrass journalists to end their plagiarism: Read-it-here-first was just the trick. Publish both pieces, the original dated blog, and the pilfered piece. If that didn’t work, a stern e-mail to the editor and publisher usually worked. For the most part, that stopped the plagiarism — but for a while it was a problem.

It was also a problem when the Associated Press was suing bloggers for linking to (and thus driving traffic toward) its car-thief-chop-shop stories, themselves mostly copied from better local news sources. And in my experience larger newspapers were never shy about taking a story and “re-reporting” it after a smaller paper beat them to it, sometimes calling all the same sources.

Their arrogance really knew no bounds. True story #1: I once had a reporter at a larger paper in my market call me up and ask me for contact information for a source I’d quoted. When I got done laughing I said no, and she was unbelievably outraged, like how dare I not be honored by her attention to my little scoop.

True story #2: A friend blogging under the auspices of a newspaper dared to write something that contradicted the reporting of a prominent local critic. Said critic (who was wrong) flipped the living hell out and went all HOW DARE YOU DON’T YOU KNOW WHO I AM, necessitating the intervention of higher-ups who basically concluded that the blogger was overstepping because she’d offended this gasbag.

They were defensive and pissy until the ad revenue started drying up, and while I can’t bring myself to cheer for their demise I can say it’s entirely self-inflicted. The New York Times could have bought every city blog for a song ten years ago, if they hadn’t turned up their noses at the content. Blog triumphalism can be tiring, and you all know how much I love my print and think it’s just fine, but God, I have zero patience for people who could have embraced the Internet and now want some kind of absolution and for it all to be okay now.

(By the way, found via Romenesko.)


3 thoughts on “‘for the most part that stopped the plagiarism’

  1. A hubris among NYT (and others) that people will be so honored to write for you and otherwise do your work for free? They will be so honored that you don’t even have to provide the citation to them.

    Here it ranges from the campy to the extreme. They are a small rural station and I can understand why being in a small market limits their ability to report the news. But their solution was to hire, last month, an internet reporter. The scope seems to be only the fluff of which the internet is so replete.

    The oddest is someone apparently sent them a picture of a sunset. Now, each day their facebook page has a posting of usually a sunset. No framing. The wording is almost identical each day along the lines of “Another beautiful sunset was sent to us by XXXXXXX. …..Please send us your pictures so that we can feature them …….”

    The funniest one was during the Supermoon. Their featured picture was a “beautiful picture of the moon”. The moon filled the entire picture from top to bottom and was along the lines of what you’d see in looking at the moon through binoculars. Of course, didn’t have anything to show what was special about the supermoon. Just a lunar scape similar to a weak telescope.

  2. I remember my betters at Landmark Communications telling me that because the NYT was publishing freelancers’ contributions online without permission or compensation, we should do the same to our freelancers. I warned them that that would not end well. They didn’t listen, and it didn’t end well.

    I realize that being right can be annoying, but … actually, wait, no “but.” I’m *proud* that being right can be annoying.

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