Are blogs more ethical than traditional media?
In terms of attribution, Reuters’ Anthony DeRosa, in his blogpost about “traditional media’s refusal to enter the link economy,” argued that bloggers are more ethical.
DeRosa noted that bloggers typically link back heavily to sources and credit other outlets for news tips, but traditional outlets like the New York Post have been criticized for a lack of linking.
The Post particularly has been called out for re-reporting another blog or newspaper’s story without any credit “if they can verify independently after they’ve been tipped off from the source they choose not to cite,” DeRosa wrote.
Blog New York Shitty has reported several times critical of the Post’s lack of linking and even published a comment from a Post reporter in 2009 stating the lack of linking is policy, DeRosa wrote.
Post reporter Alex Ginsberg reportedly told New York Shitty:
“Post policy prevented me from crediting you in print. 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).
“I won’t discuss at length the policy of not crediting blogs (or anyone else). I’ll just briefly explain that as long as we can independently verify every bit of info, we don’t credit.
“You will find that the Daily News observes the same policy, but the Times does not… “
StinkyJournalism also wrote about that Post reporter’s admission (see here). At the time, The New York Post responded to StinkyJournalism’s e-mail inquiry about Ginsberg’s comments that “THE NY POST CREDITS BLOGS, BLOGGERS AND OTHER MEDIA ALL THE TIME, AS OUR READERS KNOW.” (emphasis, in all caps, theirs).
While in some cases, “mainstream news publications” may credit a blog or another source but won’t give a link back to the source. DeRosa noted that ” Even here at Reuters, links are rarely seen, if ever, in the context of the articles we post.”
DeRosa ultimately advocated the linking, arguing that linking is good for business. He wrote:
“Linking out doesn’t take traffic away from your site; instead, it makes your site more valuable as a comprehensive source of where information is flowing, it helps to show you’ve done your homework and are able to back it up.”
The battle for credit from bloggers is nothing new though. Last November, bloggers claimed that Jay Leno used their video montage concept without crediting them. Ultimately, Leno gave attribution on air to those bloggers, Rich Juzwiak and Kate Spencer.
And, attorney Eric Turkewitz, who “punked” the New York Times April Fools Day 2010 with a hoax story that the Times was caught reporting on without fact-checking, wrote about “when the mainstream media swipes the blogger’s goods” last summer as well.
He noted that both he and another blogger, Danny Sullivan, had each blogged original material that the mainstream media took that original material and “failed to give credit for where they got the information.”
The problem with this, as Turkewitz, who says the New York Daily News used his work, explains is: “this left the reader to believe the hard news part of the editorial was from their own news gathering.”
In Sullivan’s case, he says he knows he was the first to report his lifted story — about a lawsuit related to Google Maps (see his story “Woman Follows Google Maps ‘Walking’ Directions, Gets Hit, Sues” here).
“No one had written about the case before I put my article up. I know. I checked before publishing. There was nothing out there. So what happened next?”
Sullivan says the Daily Mail not only lifted his story, but also picked up a screenshot he posted with his story — both without attribution. Other outlets did “the same thing” and didn’t attribute or link back to Sullivan’s post. But, in some of those cases, Sullivan noted that he was able to get after-the-fact attribution.
However, the more people re-reporting Sullivan’s story without sourcing it to Sullivan led to CBS News and Atlantic Wire citing a secondary source (PCWorld) in their reports.
Read Sullivan’s full story about the Google Maps story being lifted here.
According to Woodhead, the linking not only indicates what sources journalists use but also allows readers to see if the story is based on a press release. (On a related note, UK site Churnalism.com has been making headlines for its offering an easy way to test if news stories are just a re-written press release.)