Okay, enough is enough.
I’ve been blogging for almost five and a half years. But being an ‘editor’ of another blog — TPMmuckraker.com — has given me a new perspective on the form and its relationship to the mainstream media. Specifically, it’s opened my eyes to just how routinely mainstream media outlets rip off stories that are originally reported on blogs.
We’re not the only ones. Rawstory.com has had related problems. But let me tell you our story.
Last week, over a three or four day period, there were four instances in which a mainstream media outlet took a story or scoop we (and by this I mean the two reporters who put out TPMmuckraker.com, Paul Kiel and Justin Rood) had first published and ran it as their own without crediting or mentioning that TPMmuckraker.com had originally broken the story.
Writing up or following up on a story and not crediting the news organiztion that first reported it is not a journalistic felony. It’s more on the order of a misdemeanor or moving violation. But it is a breach. And mainstream news outlets, a few of which I’ve actually written for, don’t seem to think it applies to blogs that are doing original reporting.
This evening I noticed that a writer for the Associated Press, Sam Hananel, wrote a story on Rep. Jim Ryun’s (R-KS) questionable real estate purchase from the now-defunct U.S. Family Network, the nonprofit controlled by DeLay political advisor Ed Buckham and funded by clients of Jack Abramoff.
This is Paul Kiel’s story. He’s one of the two reporters for TPMmuckraker.com. He wrote about the purchase first late Monday afternoon. He followed up late Tuesday afternoon with another piece, based on interviews with DC area real estate appraisers, which suggested that Ryun got the house for as much as $100,000 less than its market valuation.
As the editor of the site I can tell you that the piece began with a tip. Kiel then reported the story. It was his story.
Yet, in Hananel’s piece there is no mention of Kiel’s work. Hananel’s piece reads as though he was the first reporter to pick up the story when in fact his story never would have been written unless Kiel had reported the story and come up with most of the key facts two days earlier.
Now, I’ve worked in the mainstream media. And not infrequently reporters will think they deserved a credit when they don’t get one. It happens. As long as it’s not particularly egregious, it often goes unmentioned. In some cases the editor from the original publication will put in a call expressing his or her displeasure. (I did this in the four other cases I mentioned above.) I don’t know Mr. Hananel. And I wouldn’t be making a point of this were it not for the fact that ripping off original reporting from blogs is clearly routine.
The fact that Kiel does his reporting and writing on a site that calls itself a ‘blog’ and orders its stories in reverse chronological order does not give Mr. Hananel the right to rip off Kiel’s work or to run a story first reported by another journalist without crediting that journalist for their work.
Conventional news outlets frequently chide blogs for not doing any original reporting but rather feeding off the original reporting of the mainstream media. In many cases, the criticism is merited. But if that is the criticism it behooves every mainstream media outlet to enforce their own standing policies and not allow reporters to rip off blog writers who are doing original reporting.