from the what's-the-problem-here dept
It appears that some (certainly not all) in the mainstream press still seems to have problems understanding the value of getting people to talk about what they reported on. They seem to come at this viewpoint from the old line of thinking that a reporter reported on the story and that was it. The story was done. But that’s not the way the news works. A news story is simply a part of the conversation. It may be a starting point in a bigger effort — which is why it’s important for so many people today to be able to spread and share the news with others. Yet, if you come at things from a viewpoint of the newspaper article being a final and definitive word, then suddenly such sharing and spreading is viewed as “theft” or being “ripped off” and the person promoting and discussing and sharing your work is suddenly a parasite.
Over the weekend, just such a situation cropped up, when Ian Shapira, a writer for the Washington Post wrote about how he felt when the blog Gawker wrote about one of his articles. At first, he was thrilled. It was validation. In fact, he called it “one of journalism’s biggest coups.” He should have stopped there, because he was right.
But after excitedly telling his editor about it, his editor claimed that Ian was “ripped off” by Gawker… and Ian appears to have come around to that view. But was he really? Not at all. The Gawker post links to the Washington Post three separate times. And, even worse, almost all of the article they quoted wasn’t actually Shapira’s writing at all, but quotes from the person he was profiling — someone Shapira most certainly did not pay. As we recently discussed, newspaper reporters regularly get free quotes and free insight and free advice from various experts, that they get to use in their articles. And now suddenly it’s “stealing” for someone else to quote the same people (with a link — or three) back to the story? Please.
At some point, more people will come around to realizing that when others are discussing the stories you helped bring forth and linking back to you, it’s time to join in the conversation — not scream and whine about others stealing. That just makes it less likely anyone will ever write about one of your stories again.
This isn’t even an issue about fair use, as some are suggesting. It’s an issue about common sense. If you have a story, you’d better want it to spread, and what better way to get it to spread than to get more people talking about it wherever they want to talk about it. You can’t keep all the discussion at your site, nor should you want to. Doing so only guarantees no one cares about what you have to write.