Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Your Stories: Do Blogs Steal or Promote Them?

I write about a specialized section of the aviation industry. Except for a few stories, you rarely see the issues I cover appear in the mainstream media. I read with interest this post from the PBS Media Shift blog about whether other blogs steal or promote original stories.

The question came up after Washington Post reporter Ian Shapira was originally happy when Gawker did an excerpt on his July 9 story about how to speak to Generation Nexus. Granted, the Gawker piece was actually very snarky about the job of "business coach," and the Shapira's story got a link at the very end.

The Media Shift blog reports the following: According to Shapira, his editor told him: "They stole your story. Where's your outrage, man?" Stealing is a serious charge in the world of journalism, even though story ideas, scoops and angles are stolen daily. If a blog is excerpting content from a news story and crediting and linking to the original, isn't that so-called stealing really a form of promotion?

So Shapira wrote his own piece in the Aug. 2 Washington Post, blasting Gawker for rewriting and republish his story," cherry-pick the funniest quotes, sell ads against it and ultimately reap 9,500 (and counting) page views?" He talked about all the labor and time spent to write the story and how it took the Gawker writer a half hour to write his post.

Shapira then looked at the hits on his story, noting that Gawker was the second-largest referrer of visitors to his story. But he also questioned whether those visitors were helping improve the bottom line for the Washington Post.

And the Post is not the only one doing this. The Techdirt blog reports on how CNN allegedly ripped off the work of Radley Balko, a reporter with Reason who did a major investigation into the work of Steven Hayne, a Mississippi medical examiner whose practices were questioned in the magazine. Techdirt notes that "Anderson Cooper 360" used Balko's research, and sources interviewed by CNN even acknowledged that research, but did not give him credit in its report.

So back to the Media Shift blog. Writer Mark Glaser discussed his own experience with a blog that covered his work. He decided to create the Steal-O-Meter, "to help denote where a practice falls between "stealing" and "promoting."'

Looking at the Post/Gawker stories, Glaser noted the following: multiple quotes were lifted from the story, usually the best ones; a summary of the rest of the story was added to the blog post. In the end, he determined that the Gawker post appears to promote the original Washington Post story, "but doesn't give people many reasons to check out the original."

The Gawker post fell under what Glaser called the Drive-By Summary. Other categories are: Summary with Spin, Deceptive Excerpt, Retold with Story Credit, Aggregator Blurb, Reuse without Authorization and Link Love. So now we have a guide, for what it's worth.

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