For all the angst over online appropriation of newspapers’ work, information actually flows in all directions, right? Blog posts inspire newspaper articles, newspapers lift from other newspapers, and radio stations do the rip-and-read. So when a blogger uncovered a major zoning violation in her Brooklyn neighborhood last month, it was only natural that the New York Post would pick up the story. But credit the blogger? That would be a violation of policy.
The Post prohibits crediting blogs and other competitors for scoops, according to the reporter, Alex Ginsberg, who noted the zoning violation two weeks after it was reported by the blogger, who calls herself Miss Heather. “Post policy prevented me from crediting you in print,” Ginsberg wrote in a gracious comment on the blog. “Allow me to do so now. You did a fantastic reporting job. All I had to do was follow your steps (and make a few extra phone calls).”
The policy may have more to do with the Post’s rival, the Daily News, than with blogs, but it appears to apply across the board. In an email to Miss Heather, Ginsberg wrote, “The rule is this: if every detail, fact and quote can be independently verified, then we don’t have to credit anyone.” I put in a call yesterday afternoon to the Post’s PR firm, Rubenstein Associates, and this morning I emailed Ginsberg. I haven’t heard back from either.
[UPDATE, 1:28 p.m.: I just heard from Suzi Halpin, a spokeswoman for the Post, who told me, “The New York Post credits blogs, bloggers, and other media all the time, as our readers know.” I’m a fairly regular reader, but I’ll have to dive into their archives to recall how generous they are with hat-tips. It’s possible Ginsberg is completely wrong about the policy or that it’s more of an informal rule. Halpin wouldn’t answer my follow-up questions or put me in touch with anyone at the Post.]
It’s hard, of course, to defend this rule on journalistic grounds, but it also seems like a marketing goof at a time when newspaper companies are seeking to “restore some balance to the industry’s crippled supply and demand equation,” as Paul Farhi recently put it. News Corp., which publishes the Post, has described the way Google handles its content as parasitic. How would the company describe relying on someone else’s work without credit?