Community Post

Local Internet Courtesy: A Request For Publishers – Updated

We’ve got a burgeoning internet news market here in Seattle, and that means that there’s a lot of folks scrambling on a day to day basis to fill the news hole. Some days nothing happens, and that makes it stressful for those of us that need to keep an audience engaged and entertained.

All news is somewhat iterative. You see something somewhere else, maybe look into it some more, and then are inspired to fit it into your beat or area of coverage. 

But there’s a tradition in the internet world that didn’t previously exist in print or TV. The internet allows this thing called links. They’re simple to do and don’t take much space. And the tradition has been that if you see something somewhere else and then write about it, you give at least a simple link and some credit to the place that inspired you. And especially if you see something and then use that research, how ever small, and just add your own words around it, you should definitely give credit where credit is due. Often it’s called a hat tip, or H/T for short, acknowledging the inspiration for your work and being honest with your audience that it wasn’t entirely original.

And maybe this will seem petty. Maybe it’s an indication that I should have had only one beer instead of two at Oddfellows tonight. But a couple of weeks ago I saw a crew replace the street signs outside of my house. Being a collective and sentimental nerd, I craved the old signs. I went out and talked to the crew and found that I would have to go down to the surplus store to get them. I did so, found out more about the process, and filed a mental note to write about it sometime in the future.

That future ended up being this morning at 9:17am. It wasn’t groundbreaking journalism. I spent a total of about 25 minutes getting a photo, finding links, and writing some copy. But it’s a good example of something that has started happening too often around here, where blogs find stories elsewhere and rewrite it for their own use without credit.

Now maybe a citywide site was miraculously and independently inspired to write the same story at 1:30pm today. And maybe another neighborhood blog was similarly inspired later at 1:13pm 4:17pm.  (Update: the link here was changed from QueenAnneView to KOMO, who first republished without attribution and are probably the worst of the local content thieves. Update x2: We’ve learned that KOMO was the original thief. Please blame them and not QueenAnneView) But the combination of the same facts, links, etc makes me a bit suspicious that they applied some quality writing skills to repeat the same story without credit. That another citywide site linked to one of the later posters adds a bit of aggravation to it all. And of course there was an 11pm TV newscast that repeated the story without credit to anyone, but TV has been doing that for years and years so it’s no big surprise.

I know first hand that often times you can be working on a story, doing research, and just happen to get beat to the “publish” button by someone else. But that is usually self-evident from the writing. They’ll each cover separate facts, probably talk to separate people, and have different takes on the story. But most cases I’ve found around here recently aren’t like that.

Here’s a couple of rules of thumb:

  • If you’re inspired to write about something by something else you see on the internets, add a simple link somewhere within your story. Readers can then honestly judge how much independent effort you put into it
  • If you take a press release or a blog post from a public agency and rewrite it, go ahead and let people know the source, with a link if it’s online. Otherwise it’s dishonest to your audience to imply through silence that you did some original reporting on it.
  • If you’re looking for information for your corporate news blog, it’s probably not completely ethical to rely on your competitor’s calendar entries as your primary source of content, adding a few words and stock photos around them to juice things up.
  • If you’re really just rewriting someone else’s story, save everyone some time and just blockquote what they say and add a link. It’s a lot easier on the psyche and allows you to move on and spend time on something original.

It’s simple: Be honest. Give credit where credit is due. Expect the same from others. And then you’ll benefit from your hard (or not) original work and everyone else will too.

Update x3: We’ve got some slow learners

0 thoughts on “Local Internet Courtesy: A Request For Publishers – Updated

  1. so sorry scott that those jerks are ripping from you… but at least imitation is flattery, no? I am loyal unto this CD website and no others. Pffft… copy cats suck.

  2. yes, this program has been going on for years, though maybe your morning post reawakened awareness of it.

  3. Are these not the same sites that sold out to the PI or the times or whatever as well. link stealing is weak, give credit or trackback or do what you need to do other blogs.

  4. Wow, my opinion of those other sites (which was relatively high) just went way down.

    The other great thing about the web (and blogs in particular) is that you can update your page with links when you figure out that they’re needed. If any of the authors of those posts are reading this, go make it right and update your posts with a link to the CDN story.

    (And, props to Seattle Metblog: they linked in their story–unfortunately to Seattlest, which is no help to CDN, but at least they have some class.)

  5. Masters in Journalism…maybe you should go check up on the latest copyright laws…this isn’t a YAWN topic…it’s a big problem with new media outlets, blogs, social networks etc. Scott has every right to be suspicious and frustrated. And how hard is it to post a link back the original content…step 1: Copy, step 2: Paste

  6. Scott, I 100% agree with you. I saw QueenAnneView had done the story and got the info from there not realizing you were the original source. Both the QAV story and MyBallard has been updated to give you kudos. It’s a fun story, nice catch! We, too, get frustrated when we don’t get credited.

  7. Totally agree! I had no idea this started with you. So sorry! We got it from KOMO (, and they didn’t credit anyone, so who knows where they got it from. From now on, double and triple-checking links! Sorry again!

  8. This particular article is fun and interesting, but consider the consequences of the echo chamber that is created regarding information upon which you base opinions and decisions. The internet has only exacerbated this phenomena. At a minimum, sources of stories must be acknowledged so that you know who has independently verified anything and who is contributing new information.

    Notice when you go to your favorite search engine and search on a topic. Most of the news sources say their story came from the Washington Post, the AP, etc. You will need to go to pages two, three or four to get any new angles on the particular topic. Or, go to the original video, book or interview that is being opined about the SAME WAY over and over.

    Somehow, copyright needs to come into play here. I know people who merge their name on all photos they put on the web. Maybe articles need to be over layed with a ‘watermark’ copyright notice. After all, in the software world copyrights were asserted by the authors. Those assertions held up.

    I also think that aggregators need to just aggregate and stop being a bunch of poseurs.

  9. I’m very familiar with copyright laws. Are you? Doubtful — you’re busy clicking little ratings stars to suppress opinion. Props, homes (and yes, no “L” … it’s short for homeboy … you’re welcome for the introduction to 1970s urban slang).

    Facts are not protected by copyright. That’s right: Facts are not protected by copyright. I can write it twice because it’s a fact and facts are not copyrighted. If you copy this paragraph word for word (assuming this was my site and reproduction of its copyrighted materials was prohibited by law), that would be a different story.

    Someone stole your “scoop” about a city-distributed release about old street signs? And then attributed another “blog” with the “scoop?” And that irked you?

    You, sir, are in the wrong business.

  10. The real problem is that these neighborhood bloggers are terrible. Most are housewives who post between changing diapers and running street signs in their SUVs. Others spend their days mired in used bookstores, thrilled only by the occasional press release, Tweet or mass e-mail that they then recap poorly with no objectivity or balance. The broadcast journos? Sorry, most are not even taught the basics of written reporting. But I’m sure they know their way around video-editing.

    You’re not going to stop them from being terrible reporters until you ignore them and read only real reporters.

  11. I’m impressed with your ability to use “burgeoning” and “iterative” in a blog post. Additionally I support your views 100%. I disagree with the comments of Master’s in Journalism regarding the insufficient abilities of many bloggers, but I think it is true that bloggers not having the advantage of a journalistic background may not as be familiar with journalistic conventions as they should be. Blogging should still be journalism. You have set them straight.

  12. The real problem is people like you. Angst driven, out-of-date journalists who are clinging on to an industry that wasn’t, and letting go of any pride or joy that a career in news once brought. Housewives who post between changing diapers? I understand your knowledge for 70s slang, since your respect for women is clearly straight out of the 50s.

    Here’s your introduction to 00s slang: Grow a pair. I understand your situation: your “Master’s in Journalism” means nothing anymore because what “journalism” really means is changing faster than universities can print diplomas for it. I’m sorry, it sucks, but it has or will happen to any old business that hasn’t transitioned into today’s web-driven world. But please, relax your print-media ego and learn. Collaborate. Help these neighborhood bloggers, who are apparently “terrible”, become something more. There is no respect in any profession for people like you, who’d rather demoralize and stick up your nose than kneel down and take someone upon your shoulders.

    Yeah, if you are the decent journalist as you claim to be, you’ll know I’m 20 years old, and still in school. You can attempt to discredit me with ad hominem attacks, but the FACT is: I have an open mind, and yours closed in unison with the doors of all the newspapers that have gone away. I have an open mind, and yours closed in unison with the doors of all the newspapers that have gone away. I too, can write that twice.

  13. How many of the reporters in any news outlet actually have a degree in journalism. Yet they will always acknowledge the sources of their institutional colleagues.

    Some blogs are done by journalists. The internet is a form, not the substance and certainly investigative reporting needs to be supported, and any online ‘newspaper’ needs to have a level of support that WE actually need if we want to know the truth.

    What we are talking about is credit for the research a person does and the words a person writes. What if I took someone’s thesis, with their permission to quote them, but used their research as my own? What would the consequences be?

    Sure most blogs are not run by journalists and people should NOT presume that they are. But, as a source they are due crediting. Otherwise I consider it stealing and lazy.

  14. Just when I thought that it was cool that there was more than one blog about the Central District (some for profit, like this one …. “earn real money” … ha! ) and some from some big news outlet (probably also for profit and to maintain relevance (good luck with that) ) and some for an experiment and then never maintained (last post: November) and some made by what appear to be robots and some more I can’t remember now …. now it turns out that I have to go bouncing from blog to blog to see who got the scoop on which local event first?

    1) Major irony here. All I ever read about is how the mainstream media is always saying ‘bloggers are stealing our content’ … and then this article seems complaining about the inverse
    2) Blatant self-interest. The point of this blog (stated clearly here: is to “make real money.” I have no idea how much any of these blogs are making, but I can tell you this > if you think you’re going to support a family with your website, you’re going to need a crapload of traffic.

    Let’s do some quick math. A typical CPM (cost per thousand impressions) for banner ads is less than a dollar. But let’s be generous and assume that through some amazing sales technique you could get $5 CPM. So … for every 1,000 pageviews you get (notice you need to have an ad on the page … this one doesn’t) … you make $5. To make ‘serious money’ … I would assume you’d be meaning ‘slightly more than minimum wage’ … so $10/hour X 40 hours per week … $400 week: you’re talking 80,000 pageviews (at a minimum, assuming 100% ad coverage).
    Are there even 80,000 people in the CD? NO!

    3) I’m catching a meme here, and it’s “ALL THE OTHER BLOGS ARE WRONG” … if they weren’t covering the same stuff, they’d be ‘irrelevant and out-of-touch’ If they are covering the same stuff, they are ‘stealing.’ If they don’t have a blog, they are ‘ignoring the CD.’ If they have a local blog, they are ‘carpetbaggers.’

    I know this is coming off a bit harsh, so let me scale it back. I like this site. I read it. I read the other sites. I read (gasp) LOTS of stuff. And I don’t care who gets the story first. We’re not talking about Woodward and Bernstein breaking the Watergate scandal here, we’re talking about some free street signs. Or the Central District Forum. All of whom BENEFIT from broad media coverage.

    I mean, if/when I organize some event in the CD, I’m going to send a note to this site and to all the other news outlets I can think of, with the hope that they pick up the story and help drive some interest in my event, whether it’s a concert series or a block watch or a bar opening. And then I’m not going to spend forty-five minutes trying to figure out who broke the story first.

    Sorry … long rant. I’m normally just a lurker.

  15. 1) That may be the case where Big Media has credentials and resources to get certain stories but in a micro-neighborhood blog, it really goes the other way around imo. Do you really think mainstream media wants to fund someone on their payroll to just cover the CD? The only stuff they want to cover are the big ticket drug stories and the shootings/murder/homicides. This is exactly why they are paying the microbloggers now and snatching/redistributing content so they don’t have to.

    3) Point is so easily solved by crediting or linking the story – you are looking at the the wrong way. They can cover the same story all they want as long as it is credited, thats all. I don’t know how long you’ve been reading CDNews but “all other blogs are wrong” has never been a theme here, and the vibe never felt that way other than this particular piece/related article.

    Whether you care if CD got this story first or not is irrelevant. If you sent a note to “all other news outlets” and “all news outlets” posted the info, that’s one thing (since YOU sourced all the sites), but directly taking content someone who spent the time to go procure it without crediting the source is a whole ‘nother matter.

  16. I can see why CDN is annoyed by this, but in my own defense I look at a hundred or so cityblogs in one big NetNewsWire folder and of the several “signs for sale link” the Seattlest link is the one that just happened to catch my attention first. Maybe it was the sort order or the direct headline, I’m not sure.

    On the other hand, this story is very old (in fact, we liked to it two years ago in a similar link roundup when it took the local blog scene by storm by way of a Seattle Times article: ) so, to me, the interesting story here is how quickly an old story can resurface and circulate across various media outlets. Sorry that you didn’t get the credit for relighting this fire.