State Bill Colorado, a news website that is focused on Colorado’s General Assembly, wrote Sept. 16 characterizing the Denver Post as “sending mixed messages about what media it’s attributing stories to.”
In its Sept 16 blog post, the news website detailed two recent instances where the Denver Post has been questioned for its attribution policies.
In one instance, State Bill Colorado reported that Denver Post business columnist Penny Parker didn’t “credit local blogger John Rebchook with breaking the story about the local businessman taking a loss on former Broncos coach Mike Shanahan’s home sale.”
Rebchook, a former Rocky Mountain News reporter and current writer for the blog Inside Real Estate News, says he “broke two stories involving the Shananan home sale,” according to an e-mail SBC reported he sent. Rebchook’s Sept 13 and Sept 14 stories detailed the sale of the house and its buyers.
Denver Post public affairs editor Chuck Murphy responded to State Bill Colorado in an e-mail, posted on the SBC website here. In the e-mail, Murphy wrote that the Post and Parker should have credited Rebchook for his reporting, and that “it was an oversight” for not crediting.
As of Sept. 19, StinkyJournalism noted that the Denver Post still hasn’t updated or corrected Parker’s column to reflect Rebchook’s reporting, even though Murphy wrote to State Bill Colorado that Rebchook’s blog “was the original source.”
“When pursuing a story or tip for publication, our focus is on verifying the accuracy of the information and getting it published, not on checking every television station, other newspapers or blogs to see if they had it first,” Murphy wrote. “The question for us is whether we relied on another outlet to gain the original knowledge of the news that we then went out and reported out on our own. … If so, our intent is to give credit and I have tried to make reporters and editors aware of that intent.”
State Bill Colorado also noted that a local blogger says Denver Post’s Lynn Bartels “took a story idea without giving proper credit. Bartels later said that attribution was unnecessary because she was unaware of the earlier report.”
“Half Glass Full” had reported Sept. 9 on the blog Colorado Pols the possibility that “Colorado Republican Party might lose major-party status after the November election.” Bartels wrote a story on the subject Sept. 13, noting that “If GOP gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes doesn’t pull 10 percent of the vote in this year’s elections, Republicans will become a minor party” in Colorado.
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In her post, Bartels explained how she learned of the potential for the Republican Party to become a minor party — through a phone call from a state senator and then independent fact checking. Then, she blogged the story and the newspaper printed it.
“Imagine my surprise today to learn that a blogger who first reported the minor-party situation is now claiming I ripped him/her off, and others repeated that without having the ethics to find out if it were true,” Bartels wrote.
Likewise, Denver Post’s Murphy said that Bartel didn’t need to credit the blogger “Half Glass Full” for her story “because she didn’t rely on it.”
Past Attribution Clashes
StinkyJournalism wrote in July when three newspaper chains — including Media News Group, the Denver Post’s parent company, sent a cease and desist letter to the political news site Colorado Pols. The newspapers claimed Colorado Pols was violating copyright by publishing sections of freely accesible news stories on its site.
In response, the Colorado Pols wrote that it properly attributed source information and provided links to the original article. Colorado Pols further wrote at the time that no news outlets own the news, that without Colorado Pols and other blogs’ linking to the newspapers’ sites, the newspapers would suffer, and that it wasn’t interested in fighting the claims, so Colorado Pols just wouldn’t source from the newspapers anymore.
This issue also came up in April, when The Wrap sent a cease and desist letter to news summary site Newser. At the time, The Wrap’s CEO and founder Sharon Waxman wrote in an e-mail to StinkyJournalism that “We are seeking normal attribution and linkage as is generally practiced on the web, which Newser purports to follow but in fact does not. So, yes, a link within the rewrite article, and credit.”
StinkyJournalism has written to Lynn Bartels, who responded that she would be forwarding our questions to her boss. She also offered the names of three journalists at other news organizations who could “vouch for [her] habit of giving credit where credit is due.” We have also written to Chuck Murphy at the Denver Post and John Rebchook for more information and will update with any responses.