How The Mainstream Media Stole Our News Story Without Credit

by Danny Sullivan on June 1, 2010

in Newspapers

On Friday, I broke a tasty story about a woman suing Google, claiming bad directions caused her to get hit by a vehicle. Today, I discover our story is everywhere, often with no attribution. Come along and watch how the mainstream media, which often claims bloggers rip it off, does a little stealing of its own.

Woman Follows Google Maps “Walking” Directions, Gets Hit, Sues was the story I posted on Friday afternoon, Pacific Time. I was tipped to the lawsuit by Gary Price of ResourceShelf. Gary hadn’t written about it himself but thought Search Engine Land would be interested in it. He came across it through the regular monitoring of search-related news that he does across a variety of resources (Gary watches many, many things — he’s a research guru extraordinaire). Gary downloaded a copy of the suit via the PACER Service and sent it to me.

No one had written about the case before I put my article up. I know. I checked before publishing. There was nothing out there. So what happened next?

I’ll Steal Your Image, But I Won’t Link To You

Let’s start with the Daily Mail’s story here. We get no attribution, but I know they found the story from us. My evidence? They’re using a screenshot I made, without my permission and without credit.

It’s a screenshot of the route from Google Maps. Sure, the Daily Mail could have generated their own route using Google Maps. But, they didn’t. “Their” image is cropped exactly the same as mine and includes an arrow I added to point to a warning on Google Maps.

Since the image was created by me, for Search Engine Land, and is a transformation of the original Google “work,” the copyright that the Daily Mail is violating belongs to Search Engine Land.

The Financial Post does the same thing, uses my exact image — so they had to have seen my story — but they don’t bother to link over or provide attribution.

Postscript: Jameson Berkow from the Financial Post got in touch soon after I posted my story to apologize, saying there was originally a link to our article in his piece but which got lost along with other links through some technical glitch (which I can totally understand happening. I’ve lived through those myself). When he fixed the missing links, ours got overlooked accidentally but now has been restored. I’m also good with the usage of our illustration, since the article links over to me.

I’ll Link To Your Source Document, But Not You

Over at PC World, a different twist. Rather than link to my story, they linked to the source documentation — the lawsuit — that I uploaded to my personal Scribd account.

I created this account on Friday, so it’s not something you’d just stumble upon in the course of independent news gathering. Maybe PC World saw someone else linking to it and so never saw my story.

Maybe. Then again, as part of the news reporting process, I think tracking down originating sources is important. Where did this document come from? The Scribd file links over to my original story. If you wanted to backtrack the origin of this document (say, perhaps, to know if it was actually real), you’d probably head over to my story.

Either PC World did this, and didn’t think credit was necessary, or it failed to fully fact check the story.

Postscript: PC World has added a link now, thanks, and the author commented about coming across my story after finding other ones about it.

By Omission, Someone Else Becomes The Source

Regardless of how it happened, the PC World story is an example of something else, how a second party can become the originating source.

That PC World story? CBS News cited it as the source for its own story. That, again, makes you question some of the news reporting that is supposed to go on by the mainstream media. The reporting, that accounts often say, blogs themselves fail to do.

CBS simply seems to have summarized the PC World story, ending with a link to PC World plus a link to the complaint itself — the complaint I uploaded. Clearly no one tried to track down the complaint’s origin more. No apparent attempt to independently verify if the case was real. (FYI, unlike CBS, I actually did call the legal firm in the case on Friday).

That CBS story also flowed out to affiliated CBS news stations, such as here and here.

Postscript: CBS, after seeing this, added a link — thanks!

Over at the Atlantic Wire, PC World again gets cited, but not us. also is cited in that Atlantic Wire round-up of commentary on the case. Despite the fact prominently links to us (thanks!), that doesn’t make it into the Atlantic’s story.

Time Magazine also does the same, linking to the Scribd document and the PC World story.

AOL News did similarly, linking to the complaint — which was almost certainly found by reading our story — but not to our story itself. As a result, places like the New York Daily News, nineMSN and The Register cite AOL News as the source.

Postscript: AOL has since added a link, thanks!

It’s not just mainstream media that screwed up, however. Even Gizmodo, a well known tech blog, overlooked us. They linked to Fortune, which in turn linked to us. But we didn’t get a mention at Gizmodo.

Postscript: Originally I’d had written further below:

Semi-thanks to Gizmodo. They linked to Fortune, which linked to us. But hey Gizmodo, next time, show a brother-blog some love and give us a direct link.

It came up in comments that this was being too soft on Gizmodo, compared to some of the mainstream publications that I dinged for linking to an intermediary source. I agreed, explained why this happened and have changed the story to ding them properly.

Having said that, about an hour after this story when live, Gizmodo added us as a source like this:

[Search Engine Land via Fortune]

I’ve often seen them show the story trail across multiple sources this way, which I think is well done.

Want to see attribution done right? Over at Inc, they appared to have spotted the PC World story first. But further down, there’s this:

First reported by SearchEngineLand

Thanks! And thanks to others who linked, including:

* Google Watch
* TechDirt
* Toronto Star

The News, It Just Sprang From Our Forehead

Though I’m a traditionally trained reporter, most of my journalism has been online, where documenting how a story has been found is both easily done (through links) and often done. Bloggers generally explain how they discovered a news item.

As a result, bloggers also set themselves up for accusations that they’ve just “ripped off” some traditional news outlet. By carefully listing an originating source, and sometimes a “via” source, they expose how news flows.

In contrast, a traditional media outlet typically does not document how a story came to life. It’s all a mystery. News just seems to emerge magically out of thin air in the middle of a newsroom. Or, it’s down to all those hard-working reporters out there defending democracy despite newspapers earning less these days because of all those rip-off bloggers.

For example, the Salt Lake Tribune published the Google Maps story yesterday, three days after our story went up. How did the paper discover the news?

In a lawsuit filed last week in U.S. District Court for Utah…

Well, lawsuits are public. Newspapers regularly check on them, in their areas. In fact, that’s exactly what Tribune reporter Chris Smart told me, when I called him today to ask about the origin of his story. Smart said the Tribune has a federal courts reporter who checks for filings each day.

I used to work for daily newspapers. I know courts reporters do this. But our story went up late on Friday afternoon Pacific time. How come the Tribune didn’t have its own story then? A full day had passed from when the case was filed to when it could have been written up. But it wasn’t.

Did the reporter come in on Saturday, Sunday or Monday — over a holiday weekend — and check the records?

There was some discussion between Chris and someone else in the newsroom, then I was handed over to the federal courts reporter herself. She eventually said that someone in the newsroom heard a rumor about this case, and she was called in to help locate it on Monday using the PACER system.

Now let’s imagine how the Tribune’s story would have looked, if that fact had been reported:

After hearing a rumor about a case involving Google Maps, which someone saw on TV or read on a blog or we don’t really know where, we checked court records ourselves to find the case which says….

Whatever rumor the Tribune heard, which finally got them to cover a story three days late in their own backyard, that rumor started with our story. Despite this, the Tribune became the originating source as cited by places such as, the San Francisco Business Times and elsewhere.

Postscript: The SF Business Times, after seeing this, kindly added a link!

Beyond the Tribune, there are plenty of other places where the story was apparently just discovered out of the blue, including:

* KSL TV & Newsradio
* DB Techno
* ChannelWeb
* Metro

I especially like how this happens over at The Sun. The story there, by “Staff Reporter,” gives no clue about how a British tabloid owned by News Corporation came across a story that happened over 5,000 miles away. Wire report? Saw it on a blog? Is there a Sun reporter based in Park City, Utah?

We’ll Cite You, But Not Link To You

Mashable reported on our story, and like a reputable blog, they linked to us. But Mashable’s content appears to be syndicated into places like the Sydney Morning Herald — and our link got dropped in that.

That’s bad for us, as we lose traffic. It’s also bad for Sydney Morning Herald readers, who may want to read our original story.

Related to this, both Fox News Memphis and Fox News LA cite Mashable for their story, which makes me think all Fox News affiliates are sharing this piece. Since Mashable is credited, was it too hard to cite Search Engine Land as the original source?

The Salt Lake Tribune also gets cited, which underscores a point I made earlier. Instead of original reporting going on, plenty of mainstream publications are happy to simply “echo chamber” a story that originated on a blog in the same way that blogs are often accused of doing to mainstream publications.

And Now, It’s From The AP

The Associated Press has filed on the story. Here’s the entire thing so far (the story will no doubt grow as they do more reporting). I’m going to reprint the entire thing. I feel this is allowed by fair use, as it’s required to show the entire story in order to fully comment about it:

PARK CITY, Utah (AP) — A woman who says she relied on Google for walking directions in Utah that got her hit on a major roadway has filed a lawsuit against the Internet company claiming it supplied unsafe directions.

Lauren Rosenberg filed the $100,000 lawsuit Thursday in U.S. District Court in Utah. It also names a motorist she says hit her.

A Google spokeswoman also did not return a message from The Associated Press seeking comment.

Rosenberg says she used her BlackBerry to download walking directions from Google Maps between two Park City addresses.

The Los Angeles County resident claims the directions led her to walk through Park City on a road without sidewalks that she says isn’t safe for pedestrians.
Rosenberg couldn’t be reached Tuesday. Her attorneys did not return messages.

As with the Tribune, where’s the information about how the AP discovered this story? Did the reporter come across someone else writing about it? If so, how about a credit? And if so, did they actually pull the case itself from PACER? Or did they download the document I put out there, like many others seem to have done?

Speaking of the Tribune, that paper is owned by MediaNewsGroup, which is led by Dean Singleton, who is also chairman of the Associated Press. Singleton and the AP have been vocal that blogs often rip them off for news content.

My Do Newspapers Owe Google “Fair Share” Fees For Researching Stories? story has another example of a story that emerged from blogs and into the AP wire without attribution.

I think that if the AP or traditional publications like the Salt Lake Tribune documented exactly how they “found” news in the way blogs do, there’d be a fair reassessment of just how much flows back and forth. It’s not all a one way street, from traditional news outlets to blogs.

Can’t We All Get Along?

That brings me back to another piece I wrote last year, Blogs & Mainstream Media: We Can & Do Get Along. I’d like to see a lot less finger-pointing and much more acknowledgment that the origin of news is a messy business.

So why am I pointing fingers in this case? To help keep things even. I think it’s very well known how traditional sources get cited by alternative ones. But while the opposite is true, that’s a story that’s rarely illustrated.

I’ll also add that I know mistakes and misunderstandings can happen with attribution. I try to get it right, but I know I’m not perfect. I also know there are times we’ve reported on a story, credited someone else but nonetheless ended up as a originating source. News is messy. But we should all try to do better attribution.

Postscript: Aside from the fairness of attribution, linking to sources brings those sources support with traffic. Our story at Search Engine Land has had 30,000 page views just from being mentioned in the Toronto Star’s write-up. If other places like the Daily Mail or the Sun had linked, we’d have even more visitors, which is important to a relatively small publication. My Thanks For The Link, Mainstream Media — Now Let’s Have More! post from 2007 has more thoughts on wanting to see more mainstream linking.

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{ 104 comments… read them below or add one }

Next Comments ?

1 Hugo Guzman June 1, 2010 at 11:56 am

Really disappointing. Might be worthwhile to buy a domain and set it up to crowd-source an ongoing list of instances where this happens.

The mainstream reader needs to know that things are not as they seem (i.e. mainstream publishers aren’t necessarily better or more qualified than independent publishers)
2 Marshall Kirkpatrick June 1, 2010 at 11:56 am

(in newspaper guy voice) “you are a tiny pissant, you blah-ger, your complaints are irrelevant and there’s nothing you can do about it. why don’t you go get a real job at a real journalistic outfit? oh, because you are too busy destroying that fine institution with your off-the-cuff ‘reporting’ which is irrelevant anyway. also, i have never heard of you before and even thinking about twitter makes me want to wet my pants.”
3 Anne June 1, 2010 at 12:04 pm

I understand your frustration but I think complaining about someone taking a Google screenshot is pushing it. The thing is, this story happened whether or not you reported it. Nobody has to credit you because you are not the story. I feel your pain, but you flagged up information in the public domain and other people used it too. There’s a limit to how much you can moan about that.
4 Anne June 1, 2010 at 12:07 pm

Also, re this:

“After hearing a rumor about a case involving Google Maps, which someone saw on TV or read on a blog or we don’t really know where, we checked court records ourselves to find the case which says….”

News stories aren’t written that way. No editor would have let that pass. And the fact is competing news outlets aren’t out to show brother-love.
5 Danny Sullivan June 1, 2010 at 12:21 pm

Anne, they didn’t take a Google screenshot. Read the story again. They took a Google screenshot I had specifically modified. There’s plenty to “moan” about there. It’s a copyright violation, pure and simple.

I also addressed that the information is in the public domain. I understand news reports aren’t written to document how reporters come across the public domain info that they find. I’m also well aware of how traditional publications will routinely avoid crediting that they discovered news in a rival. I covered that in a previous piece that I mentioned:

But the point is that you have a number of traditional publications complaining that bloggers are somehow ripping them off, that they somehow originate all the news out there (plenty of which is also in the public domain). They’re attracting the ear of people like the FTC seeking special protections:

FTC protects journalism’s past

So this is less a moan and more, as I said at the end, a little illustration for balance in that debate.
6 Ben Griffiths June 1, 2010 at 12:21 pm

Danny, I know it wouldn’t help this article, but wouldn’t it be even a little bit funny if you broke the scribd url and only updated the link on Search Engine Land? It’s too bad you don’t host the file yourself instead of scribd, you could upload a different document in its place, or even better redirect it to this article.
7 Blake June 1, 2010 at 12:24 pm

Unfortunately, Danny, most mainstream news consumers don’t care who scooped the story, they just want to hear the story. As long as that’s the case, the origin of the scoop will go undetected and scoopers will often (but not always) be overlooked.
8 Robb Montgomery June 1, 2010 at 12:29 pm

Dude, Good story. Good moral. Elephant in the room and all that.

But first you need to copy edit the really, truly, glaring typos in your first couple of grafs. Yowzers. Hurts your pro-journo claims to credibility.

It is ironic that broadcasters have done to newspapers (for decades) what you now claim they are doing to you.

How many times have you heard a story on local radio say “According to published reports.” instead of the truth – “An exclusive report from the Chicago Sun-Times?”
9 Vadim Lavrusik June 1, 2010 at 12:31 pm

Danny, thanks for the shout about Mashable. I’ll definitely look into why the links got dropped with the syndication and see if that’s something we can resolve.

Vadim Lavrusik, Community Manager
10 Tamar Weinberg June 1, 2010 at 12:31 pm

Hey Danny,

I’m responsible for Mashable’s syndication deal with the Sydney Morning Herald, and you bring up a really important point. I’ll contact them directly and ensure that all article links are kept intact.

This is a brand new program with their publication, so we’re ironing out the kinks, but your concern is extremely valid.

Thanks for spotting that.
11 Tamar Weinberg June 1, 2010 at 12:33 pm

p.s. I did not see Vadim’s message beforehand. 😀
12 Julie Drizin June 1, 2010 at 12:37 pm

Thanks for sharing your experience with mainstream media “borrowing” news from the blogosphere without proper credit and attribution. It is ironic that MSM claim that blogs steal their content when they are actually mining cyberspace for stories to tell. In the echo chamber of news, I always appreciate knowing “who’s on first” and where the seed of a story sprouted.
Julie Drizin
13 Colin Mathews June 1, 2010 at 12:40 pm

Danny, I feel your pain. I’m not one of the “die, newspapers, die!” crowd, but the self-righteousness of the professional media about where their stories come from sometimes tempts me to join up with them. And as you know from your background, it’s an old joke that the local TV news would have nothing to run if they couldn’t read the newspapers in the morning. None of them have any shame.

I wrote a post about similar behavior (though of content with less original reporting than your own post) ) — and later at newspapers (which I hope to see survive, even though I’m now at a non-profit journalism outlet called InvestigateWest). You should have been given credit and linked to by outlets that simply lifted your work and repackaged it. Those that did original reporting? I’m not so sure about those. It would be different if you’d done *lots* of reporting, but going on PACER and reading a suit that others can read, too? That’s arguable, I’d say.
Let me also echo Robb Montgomery and thank you for fixing the typos. However, re-read your lede, man. I think what you want is “Come along and watch HOW the mainstream media,” etc., sted “Come along and watch OUT the mainstream media,” etc. (I’d have e-mailed you privately on the last point but couldn’t quickly find an e-mail address.)
Keep up the good work,
Robert McClure
27 Danny Sullivan June 1, 2010 at 2:04 pm

Chris, agreed, I’m taking a broad license with the headline. The entire mainstream media didn’t steal the story. In fact, there are some examples of where they cited us clearly.

I also know its debatable whether anyone “steals” a story that’s coming off a public document. But to me, it’s not that hard for anyone who is days late in discovering the story to do a courtesy “as first reported by” type of thing. But I get why that doesn’t happen, for various reasons.

I think the Daily Mail is actually one of the worse situations. They don’t say at all how they discovered the story. I don’t know if they first read of it in PC World or any other source. There’s no way to tell. But I can tell they’re using my exact screenshot. To do that, someone almost certainly came to my site and grabbed it.

With PC World, since they linked to the document I posted, which is on my personal Scribd account with a link to my story, as I said, I feel like they should have been able to figure out where that document came from and source it appropriately.

I actually have server logs that can let me check for visits, but the difficulty is that a reporter might be only one of thousands who come — and not always will their “service provider” name match the publication they came from.

On May 31, I can see I had visits from places like Fox News, Cox Newspapers, Associated Newspapers (they publish the Daily Mail) and the Deseret News, among others.
28 Joe Hobot June 1, 2010 at 2:05 pm

Danny my friend, don’t get all crazy about it. Do you know how hard now day’s is to find THE source? I mean stuff get’s re-written 1000 times and everyone finds it’s “original source” from where they read about it.

Do you know how many stories I broke and in matter of seconds same stuff I read on other “top” sites? Sure some link, some don’t.

About your Google screenshot. Dude, ever heard of watermark? 🙂 Go to BGR (Boy Genius Report) and take one of their pictures without f**ing up the whole picture 🙂 ….So next time , just put watermark on your picture if you think you are THE source.

By the way you used Google Maps and took snapshot , thats copyright right there 🙂

Ok enough about dumping sh** on you my friend.

I think it’s unfair from many that they didn’t give you some 15 minutes fame on TV and because you broke the story. Thing is reporters do go on site and check stuff out and they don’t have to credit others. Ever seen reporters up-front of your house? Like 50 of them writing same sh** just so NBC does not credit FOX or CNN 🙂

Listen, been blogging for 7 years now, been trying to write to people just like you did above, 2 hours later it’s going to get boring and you will probably forget about it within 48hours… So let me ask you…Are your nerves that much worth?
29 Danny Sullivan June 1, 2010 at 2:12 pm

Agreed, Robert. My piece had stuff not in the case (I looked up the route, compared to the route instructions that Bing gave), but little to none of that was cited by other accounts. They’re all built around the case document itself. It’s just that it seems clear plenty of these source didn’t go to PACER to get the filing. They downloaded the case from my personal account on Scribd. The “reporting” in some cases seemed to be that they read the story on my site or heard about it through my site but didn’t do much legwork beyond that. So, I felt they deserve a few dings. I’ve seen worse, of course — one paper lifted an original quote from me, no attribution at all. But agreed, this is one folks can argue. And sorry on the typos. Got that fixed, too.

Joe, I’m not THAT bothered about the screenshot. Actually, I usually post them out to Flickr with an invitation that anyone can use them if they just link back. I was too busy to do so in this case. I’m mainly pointing it out to highlight that the Daily Mail clearly seems to have gotten the story from my site, completely with helping themselves to the image. A link would have been nice, but I’m not losing sleep over it. I’m not even livid with anger. More bemused. That’s just the way things tend to go. But in this particular case, it seems an interesting illustration to put out there and share.
30 Joe Hobot June 1, 2010 at 2:28 pm

Do you know who’s the worst in citing? PC World and ComputerWorld they almost NEVER cite other sites on top of that, if they let’s say link to twitter, that link actually links to another of their posts “what’s twitter” lol
31 Evan June 1, 2010 at 2:31 pm

Wow thats just flat out wrong! Crush them Danny!
32 Rick Bucich June 1, 2010 at 2:57 pm

In reviewing Daily Mail, it doesn’t appear that they give link credit to anyone, regardless of the story. On images obtained elsewhere they don’t crop out the copyright but there is no way of knowing where it actually originated.

If they don’t want to give specific credit, they just attribute the story to a catch-all Mail Foreign Service.

External footer links are nofollow as well.

Next time I hear a story like this I’ll think of this article and say they were “Daggled” and provide attribution of course:)
33 Wayne Schulz June 1, 2010 at 3:08 pm

Welcome to the world of blogging.
34 Joshua Unseth June 1, 2010 at 3:19 pm

I think the worst oversight is that of’s which links to an article crediting AOL as the source. That’s thousands and thousands of missed unique visitors that SE Land should have had.
35 Jon Henshaw June 1, 2010 at 3:19 pm

Not sure if you noticed, but ABC News gave SEL credit and a link.
36 Ian Bell June 1, 2010 at 3:28 pm

Sad to see this happens. It also goes to show how the chain is only as strong as the weakest link, in this case it was PCWorld and Daily Mail who seemed to have found the story on your site and chose not to link to you intentionally. Then it crumbles apart as the rest of the sites simply were too lazy to link to the real source, instead choosing to link to where they read about it.

In the end, its the big name sites that will get all of the credit, and traffic from a story which you spent time working on. Sorry that you got screwed Danny. If it’s worth anything, you have a fantastic site which I personally enjoy reading.
37 jon June 1, 2010 at 3:39 pm

Excellent post — the detailed list of examples really clarifies who’s doing it right and who isn’t.
38 Grayson Daughters June 1, 2010 at 3:53 pm

Oh I feel your pain. Just a few weeks ago I had two local news stations use my YouTube footage to illustrate a story. A story for them, but a problem in the city many people and neighbors and local gov. leadership were working hard on (prior to media coverage) trying to resolve in a timely manner. No attribution whatsoever.

Then one station even took their perception of their own magical media powers to a whole new level by loudly declaring in their promotional efforts that THEY alone had solved the entire city civil works project conundrum – singlehandedly.

Was absolutely maddening.
39 netmeg June 1, 2010 at 3:59 pm

I have the same EXACT problem every year, on a local level. I have an event site. It’s unique in scope and very popular this time of year. I go to a LOT of trouble to research the events, confirm them, write the descriptions. But every year the local Detroit newspaper and TV station websites swipe my events and publish them – with MY descriptions, mind you (and sometimes even my own CSS!!) without attribution. It’s plain out on my website that anyone can republish, as long as they give attribution and a link back. I actually got a station manager on the phone who told me that once they take the events, it’s THEIR story, and there’s nothing “some little website” (which outranks them for the events) can do about it. This one even had the nerve to complain that I wasn’t linking to her TV station’s website, and when I said how about the link back to me, she said no, we don’t know who you are, and we don’t have to link to you. But YOU should link to us.

Ugh, I get angry every time I think of it so I have to stop. It’s happened every year since about 2003 or so.
40 Eric Hoffman June 1, 2010 at 4:06 pm

I’ve enjoyed following this story over the Holiday Weekend, particularly as I live in Park City! I RT’d your Tweet, wrote my own blog post about some additional thoughts I had about the case and then watched as the story appeared in the local media here in Utah (w/o any attribution of course).

This seems to be an interesting case study, particularly in light of a recent FTC draft on journalism, btw I highly recommend reading Jeff Jarvis’s excellent post about it. In any event, I hope you continue to get appropriate credit for scooping a really interesting story, and where you don’t, at least you can always Google ‘em and then give ‘em Hell, good luck and keep it up!
41 KL June 1, 2010 at 4:15 pm

But you’re a blogger, not a real new source. Oh but if you know the guy who runs google’s spam team you must be legit, my bad.
42 Tim Barkow June 1, 2010 at 4:17 pm

This story points to so many failures of mainstream media that go far beyond not crediting your story, it’s just beyond sad. Not linking is a failure not only of transparency (as you suggest), but also of culture and technology.

To not recognize the value to readers of linking to external sources — of becoming a reader’s go-to source for not only the story, but all the supporting links exploring that story — is to not recognize the world outside your window. Anyone responsible for running a website should know and insist on as much linking as possible.

And as far as disappearing links go, that strikes me as a failure of technology (a feed importer, for example), that could easily be remedied by tossing whatever multi-million dollar infrastructure is presently in place, and replacing it with with a free copy of WordPress or any other open-source CMS.

When you see this happening in real time like this, it’s difficult to not want to rip the whole industry apart and start over (which is happening anyway).

And I’m not even angry. I’d just like to get on with the future, already. 🙂
43 Terry Heaton June 1, 2010 at 4:34 pm

Thanks for this, Danny. I agree it’s a textbook case and well documented. I spent 28 years in TV news before coming over to the force in 1998. I still work with mainstream media companies, so I’m painfully aware of all that you write about here. I have two comments. Firstly, the idea that TV news lifts everything from the morning paper is old news, and I don’t see it like I used to see it. Secondly, most journalists would rather die than admit the source for a story was some other form of media. The unwritten rule is that if you can find confirmation elsewhere, there’s no need to mention where you got the “idea.” Thankfully, the Web is changing this, and the currency of the link works both ways. Best wishes to you and thanks again.
44 Dan Rosenbaum June 1, 2010 at 5:01 pm


Annoying? Yes. Wrong? Certainly, for all the reasons you cite. New? Hardly.

I broke into the media business as a reporter for UPI, when it was the world’s second-largest wire service. We — at least, in our bureau — were pretty good about attribution, if only because we wanted to be able to blame someone else if the original story was wrong. (I have a long and entertaining story about this, but I’ll tell you over coffee in Seattle.)

But we would routinely find our enterprise stories — ones that took serious reporting — picked up without credit by major metropolitan newspapers or TV stations. (No internet then.) The capper would come when our brass would ask us to pick up, with credit, a story in the NYTimes — a story that we ourselves had originated two weeks previous.

This has been the life cycle of news stories since Ben Franklin: story in a small market outlet, picked up by a metropolitan paper, picked up by a national outlet, becomes media firestorm for two news cycles, then everyone forgets about it. The MSM eats its own, even other MSM. Gotta fill space, gotta fill time. Credit flows back downhill only in the rarest of circumstances.

Sorry. Sucks. At least you have a blog where you can talk about it.
45 Lonny June 1, 2010 at 5:23 pm

You bring up an excellent point, Danny, and one that Andrew Keen has often pointed out, too. From his excellent book (Cult of the Amateur) to his blog.

And people have “ganked” the news over and over with false stories. But I would love to take the time to develop a whole site (maybe an entire copy of Search Engine Land – design wise) and called something similar – like Search Engine Landing – and then just post utterly false stuff.

Use Scribd and post false court documents. Use YouTube and post made-up videos of police brutality. Use your imagination. Sort of an “Onion News” with no humor. Just fake stuff.

And watch the news media eat it up. If the internet doesn’t disintegrate into a pile of electrons after that, I don’t know what will.
46 Thomas June 1, 2010 at 5:58 pm

Big Deal.
47 wombat June 1, 2010 at 6:11 pm

A few months ago I wrote a story for, let’s say, “a wire service such as the AP.” It was about an obscure person who had had basically no previous media coverage. In the few weeks after my story, suddenly all sorts of places that covered the relevant niche did their own stories on the person – of course following the unwritten rule mentioned by the previous poster that there’s no need to mention where they got the idea.

What is funny about this is that my first thought was “damn, I wish I had written the story for a website, at least there’d be a chance they’d link to my story.”

The grass always looks greener, huh? But it seems to me you’re not being treated this way because you’re a blogger – you’re being treated by the mainstream media just like it treats the mainstream media. The reason it seems wrong is that the web has a different culture about attribution which is more generous usually but not always: many websites took photos from my story and re-used them without any credit to the source – which was the blog of the person who was the subject of that story. There’s plenty of stealing going around – it’s hardly just MSM stealing from bloggers.
48 Wendy Maynard June 1, 2010 at 6:12 pm

Funny how they managed to crop the image juuuust enough to get rid of your website credit. That is pretty lame.
49 cvos man June 1, 2010 at 6:33 pm

Thanks for helping to even the playing field for bloggers – one publication at a time. It is rare to see major media outlets on the defensive adding citations to web based sources.

Hopefully this will help smaller websites and bloggers increase their exposure by getting source links from Big Media.
50 Gib Wallis June 1, 2010 at 6:37 pm

Danny, I saw your story balloon on techmeme.

Very interesting!

As others have mentioned, you should watermark your screenshots. Also, fair use of Google’s map in a snapshot for commentary (which the arrow definitely is) means you can use their copyrighted image. On the other hand, I don’t think you can copyright your fair usage of Google’s copyright. That’s why you should watermark.

Also, the thing for me with the ScribD account and PACER that no one else has caught is that the PACER system probably isn’t free — your buddy downloaded the document for you or you did with an account that costs money. So any media outlet that links to your ScribD account is accessing a file that they could get by trekking to Park City and paying for photo copies or by paying for a PACER account and paying for that.

So this story has an overhead cost that those who link but don’t attribute aren’t sharing.

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