'Hartford Courant' Fixing Online News Linking After 'Legitimate' Complaints

By: E&P Stafff Calling complaints from competitive newspapers about its online news aggregation practices "legitimate points of concern," The Hartford (Conn.) said it has fixed its method of linking to ensure the original news source is credited.

Jeffrey S. Levine, the Courant's senior vice president and director of content, said in a statement released over the weekend that the paper in the past month had experimented with new strategies to aggregate news from across Connecticut. The goal was to be something like Google News, with a short digest or headline of a news item and a link to the original news source.

Last week, Chris Powell, the managing editor of The Journal Inquirer in Manchester, Conn., complained in a letter to Courant Publisher Richard J. Graziano that the Courant -- in print as well as online -- has been "misappropriating on a wholesale basis local stories published in the Journal Inquirer" since late July, according to an account in the JI by reporter Christine McCluskey.

"While attribution to the JI of the occasional big story we have broken may be welcome, the Courant's frequent use of the JI's work to report ordinary events in the towns in which our circulation overlaps is not welcome -- it's theft of copyrighted material and costly to us," Powell wrote.

The Courant's Levine said the letter prompted a review of the paper's aggregation practices.

"Most importantly, we discovered a mistake in our editing process when we take articles from our Web site to our print newspaper," Levine said. "We found that we inappropriately dropped the attribution or proper credit and in some cases credited ourselves with a byline to a Courant reporter."

The paper took "immediate steps" to correct the practice, he added: "It is, and has been, the policy of The Hartford Courant to attribute all information to its proper source."

Complaints came not just from the J-I, but five other newspapers across the state, which said that it appeared the Courant had lifted content from its papers without attribution.


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