Sunday, July 17, 2005

Link Me?

Margaret Moffet-Banks, ace reporter and Aycock neighbor, has a wonderful story about the Willow Oaks housing development in this morning's News & Record.

The story has great photos, and Margaret not only got the facts right, she covered the human interest angle, interviewing several Willow Oaks residents.

But to me (and maybe to you) parts of the story were already a bit familiar. In fact, I know with reasonable certainty that the N&R got interested in this story because of my initial blog post on Willow Oaks (at least, that's the information I got from a high-ranking official in city government). And I followed up here.

Now, if I didn't want the N&R using my stuff, I wouldn't be putting it out here for free, would I? But in the blogging world, does some kind of linking etiquette apply? I try to link to my sources of information and inspiration on my blog. Now that the N&R is getting more and more blogilicious, maybe they could do the same.

But, hey, I'm not complaining. Just this morning, N&R editorial page editor Allen Johnson had nice things to say about me.

But I like traffic, too, just like every other blogger!

UPDATE: It occurred to me that one could construe this post as accusing Margaret or the N&R of plagiarism, and THAT'S NOT MY INTENT. I know Margaret did her own research. I'm just talking about story ideas here.

Here's an analogous anecdote. During my very brief career as a farm journalist for the Cedar Rapids, IA Gazette, a stringer, unbidden, sent in a story about a farmer who had a novel way of storing his silage.

I needed an inverview subject for our weekly feature, "Out On The Acres," so I contacted the farmer, did an interview, and wrote it up. I didn't use any of the stringer's words; I just "borrowed" her contact and did my own story.

The stringer cried foul because I had taken her idea. My editor sent her a check and gave me a mild tongue-lashing.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

David, I thought the same thing when I saw that story on the front page. What cajones. The idea was obviously lifted, and you deserved credit.

They're grabbing every freebie they can find. Now they want Summerfield moms to do for free what they would otherwise have to pay a reporter to do.

They lifted from Gate City for their print edition without asking recently, too. Why, it's like content from heaven, these blogs!

I know of at least one other situation where they're taking very public credit for something they had nothing to do with.

All bloggers should beware of the "new" N&R. They've obviously adopted a new business model, much less neighborly than the old one.

Be careful, and don't take your eyes off their pages.

Anonymous said...

And don't take the bait.

Ed Cone said...

If a paper reports on a story that another reporter broke, it's common to say something along the lines of, "...as first reported by Newsweek." On something big and obvious and public like a housing project, the rules are a little blurrier, and publications follow each other all the time without attribution. That said, given the stellar quality of your earlier work, I read MMB's fine piece today on the lookout for some passing mention, or even a quote from you, that might have acknowledged your breaking the story. Not necessary, but it would have been nice and added to the article.

The complaint about Gate being quoted is curious. If you don't want your work cited, don't publish it. Bloggers use N&R stories, and other blog posts, as fodder for their own work all the time.

D. Hoggard said...

I too kept waiting for some mention of your blog or at least a quote grab in the article.

It would be easy enough to have a little sidebar entitled "More on the web" and provide a link to what others have written. That would add depth to the story for anyone looking to find out more about Willow Oaks and give a reciprical nod to others in the "Town Square".

The 'town crier' with the big ol' megaphone is not the only voice in the square for goodness sake.

Margaret Banks said...

Hey guys. Thanks for the nice words about the story. If we already didn't live in the best house in Aycock, we might consider moving there!

David W: You're right that the idea for the story came from your blog. It was one of those - "Hey- we-should-write-about-that" - moments that made me wish I had thought of it sooner. Your photos helped bring the whole community landscale alive, too.

I hope I made the right decision about not attributing this idea to you. In my mind, I made a distinction between a HARD NEWS or INVESTIGATIVE story (which requires lots of independent verification) and a NEWS FEATURE, which is an idea floating out there for anyone.

I'll explain: Ed Cone did some great reporting on the Fortress Re reinsurance scandal and how it impacted local philanthropist Maurice Sabbah. I used much of his reporting in MY reporting, but always gave Ed credit.

With the Willow Oaks thing, I just took your (David W.) idea as a basis for my own reporting.

Here would be another example: A blogger might write about how great it is to eat ice cream in the summer. And that gives ME the idea to write a feature story about homemade ice cream. By my way of thinking, I wouldn't need to credit the blogger, since it's an idea, not a tangible piece of work.

So to me, seeing the Willow Oaks story on your blog wasn't any different from you mentioning it to me while you're walking the dogs down Cypress St.

But having said that, I am not God's gift to journalism and I very well could have made a mistake. Things are changing so fast (especially here in Blogsboro) that it might be time for me (and all of us) to rethink what constitutes intellectual property. I haven't kept up with blog etiquette like I should, either.

But it's good we're talking about it.

Lex said...

[[They're grabbing every freebie they can find. Now they want Summerfield moms to do for free what they would otherwise have to pay a reporter to do.]]

The first sentence is an exaggeration; the second is flat wrong.

Let's take the first sentence first: Perhaps some of you remember this experiment -- if we were going to just take stuff, we'd be, well, you know, TAKING it. And by and large, we'r e not even though it's perfectly legal in small doses.

As for the Summerfield moms, God bless 'em, we're not asking them to do stories that we'd "otherwise have to pay a reporter to do," we're asking them to do stories that otherwise wouldn't get done. There's a bit of a difference.

David Wharton said...

Margaret, thanks for the explanation. As I said (and as I've said elsewhere), if I didn't want people to use my stuff, I wouldn't leave it lying around on a blog where people can pick it up. I'm just wondering how electronic attribution will evolve.

Lex, are you commenting on something I wrote? 'Cause I've got no objection to Summerfield housewives writing whatever's on their mind!

D. Hoggard said...

Hey Margaret, you live in the SECOND best house in the 'hood. Otherwise I wouldn't have moved out of it.

Anna said...

"David W: You're right that the idea for the story came from your blog"

Margaret, thanks for stopping in and explaining.

In general, I think the more attribution the better - and the fact that others recognized the article's inspiration as David Wharton's posts suggests that it's not quite like writing about ice cream, at least from the blogging community's perspective.

Attribution is one case where blogger culture is more reader-friendly - and more gracious - than newspaper culture, so it's probably not so much an instance of dissing bloggers as a cultural difference.

Our culture's worth emulating on this one though.

Also - the term "intellectual property" (in "it might be time...to rethink what constitutes intellectual property") rubs the wrong way, somehow - too mechanistic/rigid/legalistic. I think we see it more as being about courtesy.

Sally said...

I saw this article tonight and I thought, I should let David W. know. Then I came and found this interesting discussion.

After your initial posting, David, I commented to say: This has to be a Hope VI project. Then, you spoke with a Greensboro official about this Hope VI project--no mention that a reader had clued you in. Was this an ethical lapse? Maybe not, but I tend to agree with Anna: the more attribution (and therefore the more dialogue), the better.

And I continue to want to make the point that Hope VI is a Clinton-era innovation that hangs very much in the balance.

David Wharton said...

Sally,

I didn't think to mention you explicitly because your comment (and the link you sent) were already out there on my blog.

Nevertheless, a hat tip to you would have been nice, and good bloggers do that.

I had known for years that this was a Hope VI project, but it wasn't until your comment that I looked into exactly what that meant. So, thanks!

Rob said...

I was so blown away by David's Williow Oaks post that I e-mailed him a bunch of Googled links he could use (at his option) for his then promised follow.
Was I expecting credit? Hell no.

David did a smack up job between the two blog posts. And I kept looking in the N&R article for so much as a nod to David's work.

IMHOP: No one would be harmed if an off-line reporter highlighted online sources, if known (maybe a sidebar?) just as a blogger links to both on and offline sources.

Anonymous said...

Who else but a blogger (and a Latin teacher) would know a thing or two about egos?

Mr. Sun said...

David -- Can I say here what *I* want Summerfield Moms to do for me for free? I am thinking no.

Love,

Mr. Sun