(above : the man that killed the newspaper biz)
At length, anyway. In today’s Washington Post, journalist Ian Shapira describes in detail his emotional roller coaster ride upon learning one of his recent stories had been excerpted at length by Gawker. At first, Shapria admits “I confess to feeling a bit triumphant…I was flattered.” After a dressing down from his editor, however, Shapira came to understand that Nick Denton’s House Of Snark had ripped him and his employer off (“after all the reporting, it took me about a day to write the 1,500-word piece. How long did it take Gawker to rewrite and republish it, cherry-pick the funniest quotes, sell ads against it and ultimately reap 9,500 page views?”).
While I sympathize with one of Shapira’s main complaints — that Gawker failed to attribute the original piece’s publisher in a prominent-enough fashion — there’s a number of questions unanswwered in his otherwise thoughtful piece. How is it, for instance, that a venerable institution like the WaPo, not only finds itself openly coveting Gawker’s ad revenue, but struggles to maintain a readership when faced with competition from the likes of Denton, the Huffington Post, etc. Why would someone rather puruse the aggregators than the original sources?
Perhaps it’s a matter of convenience. Or maybe a matter of tone. But there’s a fair bit of cut & pasting happening on the part of the tradtional print media as well. How many daily newspapers and/or dailies-owned sites are thoroughly reliant on TMZ, Perez, etc. for gossip content? How many print journalists no longer reader the work of their colleagues and competitors, preferring to cherry pick from stories they’ve seen highlighted on Deadspin, TBL, heck even this blatant bastion of C&P’ing?
I’d probably have missed Shapira’s piece were it not for a link provided by a traditional journalist in a non-traditional setting. The New York Post’s Bart Hubbuch, a Mets beat reporter whose work has been linked to on many occasions at CSTB, Tweeted last night about Shapira’s WaPo item, and commented, “replace ‘Gawker” with ‘metsblog.com’ in this story and you’ll know exactly how Met beat writers feel about aggregators.”
It’s a hell of a bomb to drop in the middle of a Mets game. Metsblog’s Matthew Cerrone has been the subject of criticism in this space previously, but as a frequent reader of his site, he seems pretty responsible when it comes to attributing his sources, along with generating a fair amount of original content. Do all beat writers really share Hubbuch’s opinion?
In CSTB’s nearly 6 years, I’ve read more than a handful of suggestions that I’ve quoted from others’ works too extensively. Obviously I don’t share that opinion, but I do believe I’ve done a number of writers (new media and old, staffers and freelancers) far more good than harm in highlighting their work and encouraging a dialogue. I’m sure that sounds a little self-serving to Hubbuch, but I wonder if outrage over such excerpting is so widespread, why have I heard so few complaints from writers and editors over the years? Print journalists and their bosses have not been shy in the slightest when it comes to defending themselves (on or off the record), requesting corrections or retractions, or in many instances just saying “thanks”. I’m not saying Hubbuch isn’t entitled to his opinion, but I’m not so certain he’s speaking on behalf of a majority of beat writers, either.
For the record, I’ve been asked exactly TWICE during CSTB’s run to remove someone else’s copywritten material from the blog. In both instances, these were photographs, and in both instances, I complied quickly and without complaint. If a writer, editor or publisher — print or online — has a problem with the way their work has excerpted or credited on this site, I’m more than willing to remove said content. If NewsCorp would like a piece of CSTB’s advertising revenues —- which didn’t crack $3K in 2008 and are on pace for far less in 2009 — I would just as soon eliminate all advertising from the site.
And yeah, I’m throwing the name of Hubbuch’s parent company around for a reason. It’s staggering to me that with all of the Murdoch companies’ vast resources and opportunities for synergy, Matthew Cerrone gets named and shamed as a reason why hard-working reporters might lose their jobs. How many years has the New York Post been a money loser, and how many of those years were long before the advent of blogs? NewsCorp, WaPo, the New York Times (Times and Globe), TribCo, etc. had a massive headstart on the likes of Cerrone (who despite the current hookup with SNY, was very much a DIY publisher at one time) — if he’s attracting more eyeballs, is the answer really to impugn his integrity? Maybe Hubbuch’s highly original blog entries about the Mets would receive more traffic if the Post’s website didn’t look like shit?
The part I find most ironic about this is that while sports bloggers are being castigated for hurting Hubbuch’s peers, I continue to pay the hosting bill for old CSTB entries that quote from newspaper stories those publications long ago eliminated from their archives. Curious readers googling the names of various Post writers, current and former, might well come upon a CSTB entry from 2005 much faster than something from the newspaper’s own site. That’s ok, by the way. I’m totally comfortable having more respect for these journalists’ work than their own employers do.