Calorie Lab accused Agence France Presse of failing to credit it for breaking a story. Calorie Lab identifies itself as an “online health destination site…which offers health news and nutritional and fitness reference information.”
“CalorieLab published the only account of a lurid event that had occurred in Tokyo, and eight days later French wire service Agence France-Presse released a similar account without crediting CalorieLab,” Calorie Lab wrote May 30. The story in question reported on an “asexual Tokyo illustrator” Mao Sugiyama who reportedly “had elective surgery to remove his genitals and then …cooked the genitals and served them to paying guests.”
Calorie Lab explained in its blog post that it found the story “by chance” through a tweet and follow-up interviews with people including police. Calorie Lab blogged May 17, “Tokyo Transsexual Cooks and Serves His Own Genitals at Public ‘Ham Cybele’ Banquet, Police Shrug, ‘It’s Not Illegal'” about it. (Warning: Post contains NSFW, graphic photos).
While Calorie Lab wrote it was“relieved that a mainstream media organization like AFP had seen our report, retraced our investigation, and verified that the event really happened,” Calorie Lab questioned why it wasn’t credited since it broke the story, found the story, found “the only eyewitness account and images,” fact checked with police and put it “in a coherent narrative with detail, links, photos and background research.”
According to Calorie Lab, Agence France Presse’s Tokyo deputy bureau chief Huw Griffith told the blog that there was no credit because the AFP used “public domain” information to re-report the story independently on May 25. The AFP story, “Japanese man cooks, serves own genitals,” doesn’t mention Calorie Lab and contains quotes from Sugiyama that the Calorie Lab post does not. However, Calorie Lab argued that AFP used “the same sources that Calorie Lab used” and cited an “unnamed website” (likely Calorie Lab, according to Calorie Lab’s post) for the images. As such, Calorie Lab called it an example of “enhanced aggregation because AFP checked our facts.” Calorie Lab said it had “no problem” with being aggregated but expected credit.
Calorie Lab used this incident not only to call out AFP for a failure to credit, but also to advise journalists when to credit blogs, like when a blog post prompts or provides information for a story. Calorie Lab also called for AFP to give credit, interview the reporter in question, check its reporting, develop a “formalized process within AFP for handling complaints,” and “take concrete, public measures to implement credit and attribution standards for the use of material from bloggers and social media and to train their journalists and editors in their implementation.”
Calorie Lab’s Mark Schrimsher, who alerted iMediaEthics to the Calorie Lab blogpost, told iMediaEthics by e-mail that Calorie Lab hasn’t had any further contact with AFP over this incident outside of “the tweets and one phone call.” Schrimsher noted to iMediaEthics that “the Japanese media finally started covering the story yesterday…based mostly on original reporting” and advancing the story.
We have written to AFP twice asking more information about this story and Calorie Lab’s claims. We will update with any response
We wrote earlier this yearabout another cannibalism ‘event.’ In that case, two Dutch TV hosts “ate each other’s freshly cooked flesh” in a December episode of their show Proefkonijnen. Despite questions that the segment was a hoax, a representative of the TV channel that aired the program defended the segment as real. In that case, a press officer from the office of the Dutch Minister of Education, Culture and Science told iMediaEthics that “No Dutch law seems to have been breached with the cannibalism segment.”