And Another One: CNN Found 'Ripping Off' Others' Reporting

from the this-happens-all-the-time dept

Remember a few weeks back when a Washington Post reporter claimed that Gawker was "ripping off" his reporting, despite the fact that the Gawker piece linked back to the original article three times? Since then, we've noted how common it is for the mainstream press to do much worse to bloggers, quite often giving them no credit at all and pretending they came up with the stories entirely on their own.

Well, here we go again...

If you're a reader of Reason, you're probably well aware of the massive amount of work that writer Radley Balko has put into investigating Steven Hayne, a controversial Mississippi medical examiner, whose testimony and autopsy practices were called into serious question by Balko's research and reporting. Balko has spent years exposing Hayne (and some of his colleagues) for practices that, if true, are abhorrent. Balko's investigative research and reporting has been instrumental in overturning questionable verdicts. If you're looking into Steven Hayne, there's simply no way you can avoid Balko's reporting and research on the subject.

And, it appears that CNN didn't avoid Balko's research and reporting either, in its own reporting on Hayne, as a part of Anderson Cooper 360. Much of what was done by CNN appears to have come straight from Balko's research -- and sources quoted by CNN told Balko that CNN claims it found them via his articles. But, does CNN credit Balko for any of it? Nope. Not at all.

Because, you see, it's only "ripping off" when it's the "alternative media" properly citing the mainstream press... not when the mainstream press doesn't credit the alternative media at all.

As Tim Lee notes, there's nothing wrong with what CNN did, but it does show how silly it is to claim that it's these other sites or "parasitic aggregators" that "rip off" the mainstream press, when the mainstream media has been doing the same thing for ages -- and continues to do it without any qualms whatsoever. Tim notes:
Now this isn't illegal. Nor should it be. But it is rather unprofessional. And I think it's a good illustration of what's wrong with the standard story about large media organizations producing the news and blogs cutting and pasting. Not only does the sharing goes in both directions, but I think people have a skewed perception of which direction is more common precisely because blogs do a better job of crediting their sources. When Gawker builds on a Washington Post story, they don't try to pretend it was original reporting; they give credit, provide a link, and they'll often just quote the original story rather than re-interviewing all the same sources. So it's obvious who's copying whom. In contrast, when a mainstream media outlet like CNN decides to build on the reporting of an online source, they do a lot of extra (and possibly unnecessary) work to avoid giving credit. One consequence is that only in really blatant cases (like this one) does anyone catch them.

There's a clear double standard here. If it's wrong for a blogger to build a story on a mainstream media story with attribution and a link, it's even more wrong for a mainstream media outlet to build on a blogger's story without a word of credit. CNN owes Radley a prominent link to his past work. And an apology.
Indeed. But whereas the story from the Washington Post reporter kicked up a huge discussion on ethics of reporting, who wants to bet that this one dies a quiet death without the mainstream media mentioning it at all?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    identicon
    azguy, Aug 24th, 2009 @ 9:37am

    No wonder . . .

    No wonder the mainstream media loves plagiarist Joe Biden. He's one of them!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 24th, 2009 @ 9:37am

    I lampoon CNN all the time. For example, we got tired of "Mocha White Cholcolate" (or "MWC" for short) Anderson Cooper 360 and decided to make 365 Black. It's 5 bigger than Anderson Cooper so you know it's got to be good. We're lovin' it, and hope you do too.

    http://www.365black.com

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 24th, 2009 @ 11:00am

    "Much of what was done by CNN appears to have come straight from Balko's research -- and sources quoted by CNN told Balko that CNN claims it found them via his articles. But, does CNN credit Balko for any of it?"

    The reality is that once Balko published the information, other media will go sniffing around looking for a story. CNN didn't just copy his blog and call it even, they contacted people interviewed them, and drew their own story from it.

    it isn't the same as just gently re-writing someone else's text.

    Another big reach from Techdirt.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Aug 24th, 2009 @ 11:47am

      Re:

      "The reality is that once Balko published the information, other media will go sniffing around looking for a story."

      "Another big reach from Techdirt."

      So first you agree that the media benefited from Balko and didn't give him credit and then you claim Techdirt is making a big reach to claim that's what they did.

      "it isn't the same as just gently re-writing someone else's text."

      So they paraphrased it. The fact is that mainstream media wants a monopoly on the information they provide but they don't want average Joe Blow to have a monopoly on the information they provide and they want attribution when someone uses them as a source but they give no attribution when they benefit from someone else. It's a double standard.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Aug 24th, 2009 @ 11:55am

        Re: Re:

        "So they paraphrased it."

        Nope, even the story as printed here shows that CNN people contacted and interviewed people about the story (as this is how this all "came out"), and used those interviews for a story. They wrote and reported their own version of the story.

        It isn't any different from a newspaper revealing a corruption scandal, and having the TV news that night report the same thing. It is unlikely that they would give credit either (except possibly in passing.

        What I don't get is this: Techdirt (Mike) is particular about trying to tear down copyright / patent so people can use other people's ideas and property, add 1% to it, and claim it as their own. Yet when there is even a sniff of the mainstream media doing the same, suddenly it is a terrible thing?

        The news never resets to zero. A story that is out there is a story that is out there. CNN did nothing wrong, they saw a published story, investigated further, interviewed people, and reported what they found. Tomorrow, CNN will break that Obama said something naughty, and every blog in the universe will be all over it. If they weren't there, how are they reporting it? Oh wait, they are paraphrasing CNN, without bothering to interview anyone to get their own story.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Aug 24th, 2009 @ 12:11pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          "What I don't get is this: Techdirt (Mike) is particular about trying to tear down copyright / patent so people can use other people's ideas and property, add 1% to it, and claim it as their own."

          No, you are building a strawman. The mainstream media is the one that used other peoples "ideas" and "property" added 1 percent to it, and claimed it as their own yet your double standard mindedness just ignores the facts.

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Aug 24th, 2009 @ 12:16pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Balko spent years investigating the matter and in the matter of weeks maybe (probably less) the MSM took his work, did some "re - investigation" and simply re copied his work. They added 1 percent, a few days of work, to the years of Balko's work. How you can not see this and how you can think that it is bloggers that add 1 percent and not the mainstream media is beyond me.

             

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              CrushU, Aug 24th, 2009 @ 2:48pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              ... You're so close it hurts to watch you flounder.

              "What I don't get is this: Techdirt (Mike) is particular about trying to tear down copyright / patent so people can use other people's ideas and property, add 1% to it, and claim it as their own. Yet when there is even a sniff of the mainstream media doing the same, suddenly it is a terrible thing?"

              Ok, now try and follow along. Mike thinks that way, ok? MSM violates this by complaining, loudly, when Bloggers do it to them. Mike says this is against his thinking. Now MSM turns around and does it back. Mike says 'it is a terrible thing', for the sole reason that they JUST insisted that doing that is a terrible thing. He is pointing out their hypocrisy.

               

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      MC, Aug 24th, 2009 @ 12:09pm

      Re:

      The article goes out of its way to point out that CNN did nothing wrong. It's merely high-lighting the hypocrisy of mainstream media. In my opinion, news is news and once a story is broken, it's free for everyone to use.

       

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    the bear, Aug 24th, 2009 @ 1:40pm

    no CNN doesn't owe an apology, they owe him money.

     

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    Hephaestus (profile), Aug 24th, 2009 @ 3:15pm

    its a Murdoch Moment ....

    The reason for this sort of behavior is simple... and its layers deep

    1) You have fear in the print mendia
    2) You have business decisions coming into play
    3) The business decisions are all based on uncertainty


    Linking away doesnt make any money... that seems to be the problem here ... we heard that same reasoning in the 1990's and still hear it from new sites trying to keep people on their site. But linking away does give people a reason to come back. You can no longer just dictate the news and tell people this is the news and the truth you "MUST" say here is the story, here is what we know.

    And sometimes I do have a rant that is worth reading ...

    ... Big Ole Grin

     

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    parse, Aug 25th, 2009 @ 4:49am

    CNN's own story

    The reality is that once Balko published the information, other media will go sniffing around looking for a story. CNN didn't just copy his blog and call it even, they contacted people interviewed them, and drew their own story from it.

    Tell us the two most important facts CNN added to Balko's reporting when they "drew their own story" from interviews conducted with Balko's sources.

     

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