Sunday, July 16, 2006

Mainstream Reporters And Their Reporting On Their Blogger Counterparts

In the fourteen months that I've been writing this blog I have observed on numerous occasions mainstream reporters intensely and repeatedly accessing and reading specific posts on this site, which is typically followed by a report in the mainstream reporter's publication or news broadcast--each time without any attribution to this site. My initial response was to ignore it--considering imitation to be the sincerest form of flattery. But with so many of the mainstream reporters taking pot shots at bloggers these days, I've decided to handle these matters differently.

Let me begin by explaining that most blog sites have traffic or site meters. These meters provide valuable information to a blogger about the amount of traffic logging on to his or her site, what they are reading, where the readers are from and, most importantly, who the readers are. This last bit of information comes from the domain site of the reader. On a daily basis, this site's meter registers hits from various media sources, such as the Indianapolis Star, WTHR-TV, WISH-TV, The Tribune Company, and the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, among many others. The site meter tells me specifically what post the reader logged on to read if it was accessed by a link from another site or an Internet search.

Just this past week, Advance Indiana noted how an AP report by Ken Kuzmer concerning Jesus MCC's Town Hall Meeting discussing "Would Jesus Discriminate?" was strikingly similar to a post on this site from a month earlier. AI also noted that the organization behind the "Would Jesus Discriminate?" campaign, Faith in America, had lifted that same post dated June 15, 2006, verbatim and posted it as a news release on its site without attribution.

Back in February, WISH-TV's Jim Shella contacted AI Editor Gary R. Welsh on a post we did on offensive comments House Speaker Brian Bosma made to a Jewish group, which we attributed to a post on the Daily Pulse. In a report on WISH-TV concerning Bosma's resulting apology to the group, Shella mentioned that the story originated with local bloggers without any specific attribution to the Daily Pulse or Advance Indiana. Incidentally, Jim Shella has his own blog, which links to only two other blogs, Taking Down Words and Frugal Hoosiers.

Last month, the Louisville Courier-Journal's Leslie Stedman Weidenbener became the first mainstream media to write about a new law the Indiana legislature passed this year which shields Indiana's traditional real estate brokers from the competition of discount brokers. The Indiana Law Blog and AI, which have reported extensively on this new law, have been highly critical of the failure of the mainstream media to report on the draconian law. AI suspects the heavy advertising realtors do with their publications may be the reason some in the mainstream media are going easy on the industry.

AI exclusively reported after interviewing the head of Indiana's leading discount broker, Home Yeah, just how damaging the new law would be on the discount broker industry. John Slimak told AI Editor Gary R. Welsh that Home Yeah would lose at least 62% of its business when the new law took effect on July 1. Weidenbener did a follow-up interview with Slimak based upon the account first reported on Advance Indiana for her June 25, 2006 article, who told her that Home Yeah had decided to close down its business in Indiana as a result of the new law. Nowhere in her article does she attribute AI as a source for her reporting.

Today, Weidenbener writes about Indiana blogs she reads. Her short list of four blogs (Taking Down Words, Masson's Blog, Frugal Hoosiers and The Indiana Law Blog) did not include Advance Indiana. But before putting in a plug for these specific blogs, she takes the typical shots at them which bloggers have become accustomed to hearing from the mainstream media. She writes:

Now before I get into some detail about some of these blogs, I must mention an important caveat: Blogs have different standards for posting gossip, innuendo, commentary and even accusations than more traditional media sources, such as Web sites operated by The Courier-Journal.

Bloggers can often write about issues without researching or offering competing sides of an issue. They offer lots of opinion. And most give readers a chance to comment fairly freely about their own views on an issue.

That's not a criticism of any specific blog. It's just the nature of this form of media. And it's important to understand. It's also why many readers establish favorite blogs, ones that generally reflect their own personal views.

Ms. Weidenbener, you are perfectly entitled to express your pompous view towards blogs, but you better be prepared for the criticism bloggers like me are quite prepared and willing to direct back at you. The fact is you relied on AI's report--which led you to John Slimak--and which provided you the most salient point in your story on the new realtors protection law. Pretend all you want that you don't rely on Advance Indiana as a source of information Ms. Weidenbener. We know better.


jc indyin said...

I'm guessing they would feel foolish acknowledging their scoop came from you but you know most bloggers make direct links to the AP, Reuters, or whatever article they get their scoop from.

It seems to me the double standard is that if it's from a blog it is 'ineuendo, gossip, etc.,' and if the same story is scooped from the blog and reported without acknowledgement it is 'finding a story'.

Remember Katrina.. 'looting' versus 'finding food'. The white folks were 'finding food' while the black folks who were sharing the food to keep people alive were labled 'looters' to make them look criminal for taking food from a store which kept people from dying. It is labeling and denigration on purpose and you should not stand for it.

In fact... You should write a letter to the editor with your post 'dated' as to when you posted it versus their 'finding a noteworthy story' and their time of publication and dare them to deny what they do.

jc indyin said...

My own life partner has the same attitude toward bloggers. He believes in critial writing with the facts notated at the end for proof of researched authenticity. He doesn't lift blogger articles but he assumes it is inuendo and gossip, writing that has not fact checking etc. You guys need to strike back!

jc indyin said...

The LIFEbeat concert was closed down to the efforts that bloggers made to bring their policy to the forefront.

Bloggers are getting more 'street creds' because of what you guys report and more amd more people are reading these so of course the news paper people who went to school are upset.

But keep on writing. I'll read it. I know I wrote them an email and called the LIFEbeat people myself on this issue because of what I read in blogs.

Anonymous said...

Gary--I think that some may slight your site because of its GLBT orientation. Maybe it says something about the homophobia of these people. I read many local Indiana blogs daily, and your blog really stands out. I learn more about some issues from your blog than I ever learn from the newspaper or television reports. I don't know how the mainstream reporters could fail to notice this site.

Dave said...

Some of the national bloggers have caught big-name reporters red-handed using information from their posts without crediting the bloggers. And to think they get paid for their work and most bloggers do it for nothing.

Anonymous said...

Shame on the mainstream reporters for not crediting all the blogs they read as sources for some of their stories. It's not very credible.

It sounds as if your particular point, Mr. Welsh, is almost a direct lift from AI to the CJ. It's too attribution only takes a few keystrokes and completely eliminates the need for hard feelings.

That being said, a couple of observations on blogs:

1. It's interesting many of the blog owners place high credibility on the "return receipt" mechanism which allows you to see the logger's originating computer. I don't understand why it matters, in most cases, unless the Mainstreamers are blatantly lifting material and not correctly offering attribution, which Mr. Welsh states in this blog. (In less polite circles, it's called plagirism). It must matter, however.

2. Ms. Leslie's observations about rumors, gossip, etc. and the evidence behind them, contained in some blogs, is correct. There doesn't seem to be much of a standard to confirm/deny the rumors before they're posted on some blogs. Most mainstream journalists cannot get away with that inside their publications.
Ms. Leslie would have more credibility on this point if she didn't so blatantly lift Mr. Welsh's comments without attribution.

My blog education is new, and expanding. It's an interesting world which is now in my regular reading rotation. Your point about attribution is fair here, Mr. Welsh, but let's not pretend blogs have the same news credibility, overall, as mainstream media. Not yet, anyway.

I don't read blogs for the same reasons I read newspapers, or listen to TV/radio news. I view blogs and their tussle with some mainstream reporters as an evolving issue, which will surely be discussed for quite some time...aided greatly by credible blogs like AI. And unfortunately, that discussion is harmed by the many blog owners who don't have the same standards.

It's a newer medium, and getting its sea legs. It'll get better. With time. And with correct attribution both ways. Blog on.

Advance Indiana said...

The credibility of blogs will vary substantially among bloggers just as it does among mainstream media. As to the gossip and innuendo, most of the MSM newspapers employ gossip columnist who survive on rumor and innuendo. The 24-hour news stations (FOX, CNN & MSNBC) are loaded daily with rumor and innuendo. I am constantly deleting messages from this site, which I believe contain defamatory or patently false information about other persons. Many MSM newspapers allow their readers to post comments on line--I've been shocked by some of the comments which were allowed to be posted to those publications sites.