Remember Cooks Source, the little foodie magazine that ripped off a blog post, got smarmy when called on it, and then got smacked for it by a significant portion of the entire Internet? Well, it looks like it’s time to cue up the Streisand Effect again.
Blogger Ian Dennis Miller has posted a story to his blog about a newspaper, the Long Island Press, plagiarizing a blog article he posted (about a “petite lap giraffe” viral marketing campaign) based on original research—and then, when he complained, the paper altered the article to remove the borrowed information rather than give him credit. They also declined to approve his comment about the affair, and subsequently altered the section of the article in question to read:
A quick domain name lookup…which is free and public information…will give you those details, which we acquired–you know, being a newspaper with research capabilities and all–of our own accord (although some are trying to claim this information as their own “discovery” as a way to promote their own personal website! But enough of that…)
Wow. That rumbling sound you hear in the distance is the clattering keyboards of a thousand bloggers who are preparing to spread this information far and wide all over the Internet. The Long Island Press could not have come up with a reaction more calculated to enrage the blogosphere if they had hired a focus group to consider all possible methods. And since the story got posted to Slashdot, there’s going to be no shortage of angry bloggers to take up the call.
But when I shake my head, it’s more in bemusement than anger. The paper is soon going to discover its mistake, and I expect a real apology will very shortly be in the offing. But is this symptomatic of an “us vs. them” mentality in at least some newspapers? “Aww, look at the little bloggers, aren’t they cute? Do you wanna be a real journalist when you grow up?” Are newspapers underestimating the power of the blogosphere because they’re “professional” (for some definition of the word) while bloggers aren’t? Just because the word is read (or “teleread”) on the Internet instead of grey newsprint doesn’t mean it doesn’t have power.
Then again, I expect this sort of thing would happen a lot more often if that sort of behavior were really widespread. Perhaps it’s just that there are rotten apples in every barrel. Hopefully this one won’t spoil the whole bunch. At any rate, this newspaper hasn’t learned from the lessons of recent history, and seems to be doomed to repeat it.
Update: The newspaper has taken the article down. It will live on in Google’s Cache for a while, as well as quoted in blog posts.