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New York Post said to prohibit crediting blogs for scoops

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?

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  • kat

    Parasitic is an accurate word. I’ve had fellow journalists and bloggers plagiarize me, or simply rearrange words a bit, use my resources and claim the end result as their own.

    If reporters don’t get ideas on their own, that’s still plagiarism if no credit is given. Isn’t plagiarism defined as the close imitation of another’s words and ideas and claiming them as your own?

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  • Chris Amico

    A newspaper I used to work for had a policy of removing any mentions of the nearby major metro. I had stories where the name of said paper was mentioned in passing–not as a credit, just acknowledgement that another paper exists and people sometimes read it–and I found all references scrubbed the next day.

  • casie stewart

    not crediting a blogger is silly. we’re freelance jo0urnalists and if a paper gets a story from us, we should get credit!

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  • derek

    It’s actually not hard at all to defend this policy on journalistic grounds.

    If you independently verify the facts in a story, there is no obligation to note who “had it first.” (Of course some newspapers do this as a matter of courtesy, but it is not an ethical or journalistic duty).

    Television takes story ideas from newspapers all the time. Very rarely do you see them give credit. And why should they? They only have a very short length of time to tell a story — why should they waste time mentioning information that is only going to be of interest to about five people?

    Kat, plagiarism is stealing someone else’s words. But ideas can’t be owned by anyone.

  • K

    I wonder if The Post make a distinction between blogs and online-only publications/websites? In recent years, anything written on the web that’s not a corporate site is considered to be a “blog.”
    But there are certain characteristics among blogs that differentiate them from ‘websties’

    The Post would credit Slate or Salon or any other online-only publication large enough to afford legal protection. Would they not credit a smaller website, one that wasn’t a blog-by-definition, on the grounds that it was just an online outfit and thus a blog?

    I guess the “independently verified” is what confuses me. How aggressive would the Post be about verifying the story without acknowledging the source? Would they, for instance, re-interview people for quotes in a story to circumvent crediting a blog? To me, that’s not much better than just stealing the material and not crediting the source.

  • Marlboro

    Parasitic? I’d call the New York Post’s behavior with Miss Heather plagiaristic.

  • Cleland Thom

    Welcome to the real world. if you really want to be called a journalist, get used to it!

  • derek

    “How aggressive would the Post be about verifying the story without acknowledging the source? Would they, for instance, re-interview people for quotes in a story to circumvent crediting a blog? ”

    Umm, hello? This is how newspapers work… it’s been the industry standard for long before there were blogs. Who wants to credit your competitors? Besides, by re-interviewing sources you give them a chance to correct errors, clarify things, etc.

  • jessica

    Not surprised. NOt surprised at all.

  • Paul OFlaherty

    @Cassie Stewart (No. 4) While I agree that at the very least it is only fair for newspapers to give credit to bloggers, to say that bloggers are freelance journalists is simply naive and arrogant.

    We (bloggers) are peddlers of opinion, regurgitators of news published by others. We aggregate content and put our own spin on it, if we are even motivated to do that. With a very small percentile of exception, bloggers engage in a parasitic cycle of regurgitating the news from other sites adding our own spin or opinion. We produce our own mundane opinion pieces or life stories but very rarely, if ever, will the average blogger produce a piece that could be considered real “news”.

    This does not a journalist make.

    Who the hell do we think we are?”

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  • JT

    There are plenty of bloggers who do original reporting. The case this page is about was original reporting.

    To characterize bloggers (in general) as “peddlers of opinion, regurgitators of news ” is just wrong. Some, perhaps many or even most, do that, but it’s not true that blogging=unoriginal or blogging=opinion.

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  • Paul OFlaherty

    @JT (No.11) No. It’s not wrong, it’s just offensive to your sensibilities as a blogger.

    Here’s a challenge for you: Look at the total number of bloggers out there and then find a total of 1% who blog like they were actual journalists. People who research stories, track down leads and verify facts. People who have done this for more than the 1 or 2 broken stories in their blogging carrier that have made them popular and then coasted on hawking opinions and regurgitation. I dare you! If you can’t do it, then my generalization is quite clearly valid.

    Finally I never said that bloggers weren’t original. Mundane, unfortunately, is still original and the vast majority of content in the blogging world is just that original boring crap!

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  • Mary Hamilton

    This particular instance seems pretty standard to me. If another paper has a story first, a journalist can go and verify the facts, freshen it up with new quotes and a new angle, write it without plagiarising the form of words used, and then publish without crediting the original article. You’re not stealing quotes, you’re not using someone else’s words, you’re not syndicating without credit. That’s standard practice for print sources, so it makes sense that it applies online too.

    Whether it should be standard practice is another problem altogether. I personally think papers should have a general policy to hat tip and trackback to their sources, both of ideas and information, because this is a conversation, after all.

  • abelard

    overwhelmingly the fossil press is both parasitic and dishonest in its pretended sources…

    the great majority of the fossil media merely repeat ‘stories’ from the stringers of the prime aggregators ‘news services’ and republish pr handouts from universities, corporations and political parties without acknowledgement..

    there is very little origination in the fossil media, the articles are mainly filler between adverts along with aforesaid puffery from establishment sources…


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  • Flanders Today

    I wonder how many times bloggers credit the newspapers they get their posts from?

    Posting about a piece of information that’s in the public domain, as Miss Heather did, doesn’t give her dominion over the news from then on. Goldberg picked up the tip and did his own reporting. He was indeed “gracious” to give her a h/t, because there was and is no obligation to do so.

    She doesn’t own the information just because she saw it first. And she’s not being plagiarised unless somebody stole her words.

  • Dylan Smith

    Instead of worrying about the inside baseball aspect of this issue, think about what the readers think.

    Readers know you’re not the only source of news. Quite often readers know which news org had a story first, and who’s wandering behind trying to get a fresh quote.

    If you won’t take your readers seriously as informed consumers, why should they credit you with the gravitas which you feel you so richly deserve?

    Instead of wasting time re-reporting what’s already known, acknowledge the report by another news org and TRY TO ADVANCE THE STORY!

    The resources in this business that go into reproducing work that someone’s already done are a complete waste.

    Follow the Reaganesque dictum of “trust but verify” and work on doing some original reporting. Your readers will thank you for it.

  • Steve

    Thanks for this post! I can see the argument from both sides. But I have to say – I managed to get an exclusive interview on a story. The Oakland Tribune couldn’t get the story but they did the right thing by linking to it on our “blog” the next day. But a few hours later they simply took my reporting and said that I had “contributed.” They didn’t even tell me (I received an email from a friend.) Do you think the paycheck is in the mail? I don’t think so. I appreciated the link. But being called a “contributor” and not being told is kind of insulting.

  • John Puxty

    This is childish. In publishing everyone always steals off everyone else. When the Lockerbie bomber was released I posted a number of comments [I live in the UK] on Twitter. Within the next 24 hours I was reading press reports from US publications that quoted my tweets word for word.
    The dissemination of correct information to the public is more important than credits for reporters with low self esteem.
    If mainstream publishers are so short sighted that they will not give credit where it is due, they are only cutting off their noses to spite their faces.
    Their time is coming fast, and they know it!
    The printed word will survive in books, but newsprint looks like another matter. One day all journalists will be primarily bloggers and journalists second. And that day is rapidly approaching.

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