Facts are facts, right? They can't be protected by copyright -- but what about the news? Is news facts or is it "creative" content? In the blog world, there's been a mostly pointless debate going on among a few bloggers who feel slighted when other bloggers or (so much worse!) "the press" writes a story after a blogger does, without crediting that original blogger. Unfortunately, the question of "credit" is often tricky. In some cases, the media may have known about a story, but couldn't reveal it as they were under embargo. In other cases, they may have found out from a different source. Just because someone breaks the news first, does that mean they get to "own" that bit of news? Once the news is out there, it's just news. While there are plenty of reasons to credit where you discovered a news item, sometimes it seems like whoever first "broke" a story has unrealistic expectations about how much they deserve to be the story. This isn't just an issue that involves blogs, of course, and there's now an interesting set of arguments going on across more mainstream publications as well. Earlier this week, the Miami Herald offered up an opinion piece noting that there is no original journalism (bugmenot required) and that the idea of one source owning the news is not only odd, but it's wrong: "But journalists? They're not supposed to be original. They're forbidden to originate things. They don't invent characters or plots.... It isn't their originality we value. Indeed, we even insist their accounts remain faithful to the material they're based on. We call that accuracy. Hence, journalism is quintessentially derivative. Strictly speaking, the journalist who's being original should be fired." Today, there's a related story with a newspaper complaining that a local radio station appeared to be taking their news straight from the newspaper's articles -- a practice that E-Media tidbits says happens all the time. The problem, however, is that it's often a fuzzy distinction. At what point is the news just the news, and at what point is it "owned" by whoever broke the story? There are clear benefits to crediting sources in many cases -- such as showing how the new story came to be, while making it clear what additional reporting or analysis was done. However, in plenty of cases, once the news is out there, it really isn't much more than facts in the public domain, and should be treated as such.
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