Thursday, April 12, 2012

Piracy is not the sincerest form of flattery (or: quit stealing our stuff)

Plagiarism, n.: an act or instance of using or closely imitating the language and thoughts of another author without authorization and the representation of that author's work as one's own, as by not crediting the original author. (From: dictionary.com)

The above is an example of how one properly attributes work created by another. This straight forward action is something one is typically taught in high school English class.

Yet for the second time in less than a year, a local newspaper has plagiarized work from this blog. Last June, the Glens Falls Chronicle ripped off a Mark Wilson contribution regarding the Post-Star.When confronted, the weekly's boss Mark Frost agreed to credit Wilson.

Last week, Denton Publications (which publishes the Adirondack Journal and several other hyperlocal weeklies) did the exact same thing.

On March 29, Wilson published this piece breaking the news about the Glens Falls' dailies culling of editorial staff.

On April 3, a source made me aware of this online article from Denton that looked astonishingly similar to Wilson's piece... except for one key attribute: Wilson's name. The print edition ran the same article.

To make matters worse, The Chronicle ran a piece by Mark Frost entirely based on (unattributed) Denton's article, unwittingly echoing the fiction that it was their work. In an email, Frost said he didn't know Wilson had anything to do with it (which surely would've been true if he only read the print edition or not seen the updated online piece) and that he'd run a clarification as well.

(Update: today's edition of The Chronicle does NOT appear to have the promised clarification)

After much wrangling, Denton finally agreed to properly attribute its online article. In an email, Denton's Thom Randall assured me a correction would run in the print edition as well.

The policy of this blog is stated very clearly on the main page: Essays are available for re-print only with the explicit permission of the publisher. Contact mofycbsj @ yahoo.com 

Excerpts of blog posts can be used, but they *must*, with no exceptions, contain proper attribution. Proper attribution consists of the author (by default: me, Brian, except where indicated otherwise) and the name and URL of this blog (Musings of a (Fairly) Young Contrarian: mofyc.blogspot.com)

What's most interesting is this. Both Frost and Randall accepted to give attribution, but only once they were confronted. Were these honest mistakes or did they think they wouldn't get caught? Only they can answer.


Regardless, these incidents of piracy represent black eyes for the sort of local, independent journalism many want. It's ironic: on the public media programs about journalism, a common complaint is about bloggers  stealing stuff from newspapers and other mainstream media outlets. They never talk much about newspapers stealing stuff from blogs. I'm starting to suspect it happens more often than most people realize... or care to admit.

Also see: a prominent regional writer and author recounts his experiences of newspapers trying to steal his stuff.

2 comments:

Mark Wilson said...

Regarding that last point. I suggest there's an interesting (troubling) dynamic at play here. It goes something like this:
1. God created blogs—2. Blogs started piggybacking on newspaper content, embellishing it with analysis and opinion—3. Eyeballs (and eventually advertisers) started rolling over to blogs, away from newspapers—4. Newspapers, strapped for revenue, started cutting reporters and other content providers—5. Content providers rolled over to blogs—6. Newspapers started getting stories from blogs.

An oversimplification, to be sure (and I don't believe step 1 is necessarily true), but that's the general dynamic.

@adktrailhead said...

It's unprovable of course, but there are local news that maniacally follow my links so they know which memes they need to write about. I can't really complain though, like Drudge, I just point and do almost no work.