Give Credit Where Credit is Due

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By: Brad Friedman

Recently, the Associated Press carried an article which was based largely on material uncovered through the diligence, research and eagle eyes of the folks at the Web-based news site Raw Story. Though the AP has now admitted to using Raw Story’s original reporting, they failed to give credit of any sort to the site.

When called on it by the editor at Raw Story, they said that it was AP policy not to credit blogs. After it was found that they do credit blogs on occasion, they modified their comments to say “We do credit blogs that we know,” but added they hadn’t heard of Raw Story.

Never mind that Raw Story has been credited by name in dozens of leading newspapers around the country. Or that it is not even a “blog” — whatever that means, and whatever that has to do with it.

Journalism is journalism is journalism. The quality of the reporting and the journalism therein is what matters no matter the name given to the media–“Web site” or “blog” –originating the work. The reason that all of this matters is not so that the creators of Web sites or blogs receive some form of personal adulation or ego stroke for our hard work. So why does proper credit to such sources really matter?

It matters because while Internet news sites (and, yes, that includes blogs like mine which do original reporting) continue to dig and investigate and report day in and day out on stories that matter to this country and the world, recognition for that work by others is paramount for our ability to continue to produce such work.

Appropriate recognition and attribution from others is essential if we are to see our work picked up elsewhere and otherwise advanced by officials and the mainstream and any other damned media source which can add to that reporting and bring us all closer to the truth.

I’ve noticed a very similar pattern emerging of late as more and more MSM outlets pick up on much of the election integrity/reform/fraud issues that I’ve been reporting doggedly at my blog for almost two years now. While I’m very happy to see MSM outlets bring stories to a wider audience, I don’t seek personal credit for myself or my site simply. The reason it’s important — aside from being polite and appropriate and professional (and we always do the same for them) — is because their recognition of the credibility of our work from yesterday lends credibility to our important future stories.

Like editors at other Internet-only news sites, I’ve seen many articles of great importance simply ignored by the MSM and even many corners of the blogosphere. It’s very easy, therefore, for others to simply dismiss our other work, no matter how groundbreaking and well-sourced, as “insignificant” under the notion that “if it was actually important or credible it would be reported by the mainstream media.” I hear that quite a bit.

Yet when it is reported later by the MSM–sometimes days, weeks, months and now even years later– they feel they needn’t mention where those stories originated. So tomorrow’s important expos? will yet again be ignored until such time as AP or New York Times or the Fort Worth Star Telegram decides they wish to run a recycled version of the reporting as if it’s their very own. If they decide to bother.

In the meantime, those “insignificant” “couldn’t be credible” sites press on, beg for $5 and $10 donations, and hope to survive yet another week to report yet another story for the MSM to later treat as an anonymous tip whenever — and if — they feel like it. That is a disservice to the truth.

All such Internet news sites would like to continue to dig. Yet when the MSM fail to bestow on us their magic blessing of “credibility” via proper and appropriate attribution, despite the proven credibility of work, it may serve their own business interests in staving off the rise of the independent citizen journalists. But it certainly does nothing for the cause of true journalism — and more importantly for the search for truth, which everyone who even dabbles in this particular field should admit as being the ultimate goal of our collective work.

No matter which of us are on the salaried payrolls of multinational conglomerates or, on the other hand, are willing to bow our heads with humility and a touch of shame simply to beg for a few more dollars to help make this month’s rent. No matter whether our credible work is distributed via newsprint, cyberprint, Internet news site or blog. It’s time for the mainstream media to revise their attribution policies and give credit where credit is due. It matters.

***

AP released the following statement on March 29:

“The AP story in question, on new U.S. policies that could increase security clearance hurdles for gay employees, came to AP as a tip from an advocacy group. AP then did independent reporting and found the policy document on the National Archives web site, www.archives.gov/isoo/, which was included in the original AP story. We were not aware of the Raw Story work until the following afternoon when someone from Raw Story called. An AP spokesman did tell Raw Story that AP does not credit blogs, but he was mistaken. AP does credit blogs when we are aware that they have broken a story first. The spokesman then called Raw Story back to correct his misstatement.”

***

In response to the AP response, here is a statement from John Byrne, executive editor, RawStory.com:

“AP’s statement claiming they were not aware of our story is patently false. The Associated Press has clearly made a deliberate effort to keep Raw Story out of their reporting. The gay rights group that alerted AP to the story has said in a statement that he provided the AP with a link to our report.

“More damningly, Raw Story made inquiries to AP soliciting credit for our work before they put out a second story on the same topic. The AP’s reporter refused to take calls and directed us to corporate communications. She then authored a second story which neglected to attribute the piece.

“We are disappointed that the Associated Press decided to correct an article regarding Talking Points Memo while at the same time going out of their way to put out at statement claiming they did ‘independent reporting.’ Using Google is not tantamount to ‘independent reporting.'”

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