Wednesday, October 7, 2009

To Credit or Not to Credit Blogs: That Is the Question

I am a reporter and a blogger. I get a nice salary to search out and write stories for subscribers who pay a healthy amount of money to read what I and my colleagues write.

One of my big pet peeves is when I see a blogger take stories that I have put in the time to write, write about it with their own spin and don't offer acknowledgment of my work or even a lousy link to my original story. As someone who writes about a very specific corner of the aviation industry, I can tell when a blogger has done original work or has taken what's already been written out there.

But now I learn that some bloggers have the same concerns. I have a friend who has been writing online about the aviation industry since the mid 1990s. She has developed some great sources (I'm sometimes jealous) that give her information leading to some major scoops. On more than one occasion, I've seen major media outlets take what she's written wholesale and written their own stories with not a whit of credit. These media outlets have good reporters too, but they don't cover aviation exclusively, making it hard to understand how they could have gotten the same story as my friend just 1 day later.

The Nieman Journalism Lab writes about the case of a blogger named Miss Heather, who uncovered a major zoning violation in her Brooklyn neighborhood and wrote about it on Aug. 19. The New York Post picked up the story and wrote about it on Sept. 2. Ok, I know what you're going to say--maybe the Post reporters learned about the story on their own.

But one of the reporters -- Alex Ginsburg -- actually credited Miss Heather for her scoop on the story in the comments section of her blog. “Post policy prevented me from crediting you in print,”he wrote. “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).”

And here's another example. New York University has two blogs dedicated to its community. NYULocal, which says it wants to offer information on what’s happening in the neighborhood, "the most recent J-Sex fumbles and the worst Lil Wayne videos." The other is NYUNews, which is the companion blog to Washington Square News, the independent student newspaper of New York University.

It turns out that NYULocal has a bone to pick with with NYUNews, accusing the latter of "leaving with things that we sought out, claiming them as your own and never acknowledging their source. I’m talking, of course, about our posts." You can see the entire open letter, here.

“`Link economy' means you shouldn’t be reporting on printing charges at NYU two days after NYU Local without a single reference to the fact that you found the story on our site. When we miss important stories that WSN reports on, we post them on Local with a link to the original. Aside from the fact that crediting with a link is common courtesy, we share a lot of readers these days, and realize it would look rather silly if we didn’t acknowledge your existence by linking to stories you’ve scooped us on.

NYU Local The Demise of Free Printing At NYU

Two Days Later…

WSN Changes Eliminate Free, 24-hr. Printing

My own policy is to link and credit any blogs I use in my own work. There are bloggers out there doing some great work, and to me, it seems foolish to act like they're not there.

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