Crediting Story Sources…. What Would You Do?

Posted By Darren Rowse 14th of January 2008 Reader Questions 0 Comments

Donald at Kamloops Inside Out has submitted this question for the wider ProBlogger community to answer.

“Have you ever had a local newspaper write an article in the paper that was taken from your blog and not referenced in the article?

This happened to me this week. I wrote an article regarding a sports facility here in Kamloops. The newspaper picked up on it and improved the story, but never gave credit to the impetus of the story. I did meet with the reporter face to face and she admitted that she found the story on my site. Just wondering how far to push this.”

It looks like Donald has posted about this and there’s already a response from the journalist here – but I thought it might make an interesting question for some discussion.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.
  1. Little Guy Network Review

  2. Definitely write to the editor and complain. A few years ago, I was in a similar situation. I wrote an article for a local newspaper and one of their employees took the credit for the work and they also tried to get out of paying me.

    And to make matters worse, another reporter overheard her trying to sell the article to a national magazine.

    I spoke to the editor who claimed that his employee had to totally rewrite and edit what I sent in. This was total BS – she hadn’t changed a thing.

    So, I faxed all my notes and the original document to my solicitor. And upon his advice, invoiced the publication for a ridiculously high amount. As he guessed they would – they paid me a lower sum immediately, but they never apologised.

    It was annoying, that my byline was stolen, because I was writing to build up clips at the time.

    How much work did she actually steal from you? Was it more or less the same story with the words changed?

    Or did she approach it from a different angle and add new materials?

    If the former is the case – you should be able to do something about it and if so, it might worth considering doing the same as what I did – speak to the editor and if you get know joy, send them a hefty bill. Just think of a sum and add a zero on the end.

  3. I have had a bit of one of my blogs ripped off before by a lazy journalist (I am not saying you are all lazy, just this one in particular, before you print that as a comment in some paper somewhere).

    I spoke with the journalist in question just after it was printed and they also said that they had used the blog for content and not said who wrote it in the first place.

    I ended up getting free PR at a later date as a result of a friendly conversation with the dood in question… it turned out to benefit me in the long run… just a bit of luck maybe, but that may be an idea…


  4. @CatherineL (“A few years ago, I was in a similar situation. I wrote an article for a local newspaper and one of their employees took the credit for the work and they also tried to get out of paying me.”).
    That is very bad form and they are completely in the wrong in your case. However it sounds like a very different situation.

  5. I encountered a situation last year where a trade journal I actually subscribe to inadvertently published word-for-word news item from my blog that they were passing around the office as research (or at least that was the explanation that I got). Since I subscribe, I noticed it of course! The editor is familiar with me and when I contacted her about it, we were able to work out payment for the item that included a penalty above their normal compensation for the unauthorized use of the item. It was important for me to defend my copyright of my work since my job is as a freelance writer.

  6. Oh, I should add to my comments above, that they also published a correction in the next issue attributing the news item to me.

  7. abby Ives says: 01/15/2008 at 5:03 am

    I think it is frustrating, disappointing and highly annoying to put in the work and then be denied the “credit” for unearthing the idea in the first place, but there is a lemons/lemonade piece here, and that would be to strike a blow for blogging; try to educate the reporter as to why this is a problem for you as well as to align with her so she will come to AND credit you in the future, if, in the normal course of events, you are both covering the same territory. It may be cold comfort after the fact, but if you can develop a relationship, it might have a beneficial future payoff.

  8. This is the gray area where our law hasn’t caught up with the times.

    Personally I feel that if it were copied word-for-word, then you have grounds to be irritated and legal rights to pursue it. But if the blog inspired her to write an article on the topic, that’s another story (sorry, no puns intended here). I didn’t read the article vs. your blog so I don’t know how to respond to your issue.

    But obviously the journalist Michele Young is borderline ethical and she knows it.. What kind of professional journalist would answer:

    “er, I guess I stole it.”
    => what?!

    “I didn’t realize you were planning on quoting me when we spoke this morning.”
    =>umm, and you call yourself a journalist? Don’t you know everything you said may end up on a blog somewhere, *especially* you know your speaking with a blogger?!

    “you did catch me when my mind was focused on other things.”
    =>In other words, she is saying “You were not important enough for me to focus on you in this meeting.”

    “I get phone calls regularly from people raising issues or questions — as your item did. News media do not name someone for raising a question. They do raise sources who provide answers. I hope that clarifies the issue.”
    =>It’s different when someone actively calls you up and tip you that info, it’s another story you google and find it on the blog.

    I think she handled herself and represented her newspaper poorly, it was just unprofessional and laughable. I didn’t go to journalism school, but it doesn’t take one to figure out that logic is a big part of their jobs.

    Just my 2 cents.


  9. She replied “I can’t tell you that” when you asked for the source of her report?? That’s hardly good journalism.

    I think it’s a credit to blogging that we’ve become so meticulous about citing our sources. To counteract the fact that literally anybody can blog, we’ve become very good at increasing our credibility through citations. The lack of transparency demonstrated by this journalist is, in my view, not helpful for the reader or the story.