Friday, July 08, 2005

On the New York Times attributing stories to blogs

Newspapers typically give credit to other sources for breaking a story, whether those sources be other papers or blogs. Recently, however, the New York Times seems, in spite of its own policy, to be foregoing giving appropriate attribution.

Here are two examples of papers crediting blogs:
  • Here a daily newspaper (New York Sun) gave credit to a blog for breaking a story:
    While Mr. Lemann intended Mr. Navasky to oversee CJR, his exact role at the magazine wasn't agreed upon until this week, after a New York-based blogger, who goes by the name David M, wrote on Tuesday of the CJR's high profile hire. Shortly after that blog entry, Mr. Lemann and Mr. Navasky settled on the title of "chairman," and said Mr. Navasky's name would be on the masthead in the next issue of CJR. [My emphasis.]
  • Here the online version of a newspaper (Wall Street Journal) gave a blog credit for original research via a link in an op-ed column:
    A blogger computed the percentages of Kerry contributions over Bush: Cornell 93%, Dartmouth 97%, Yale 93%, Brown 89%.
  • (Aren't those examples a tad self-serving? - ed. Yes, but the PR staff just isn't getting the job done.)
Both the above examples would be in accord with the attribution policy of the New York Times, a policy which seems reasonable to me. This is excerpted from the "Other People?’s Reporting" section of the Times' Guidelines on Integrity:
Our preference, when time and distance permit, is to do our own reporting and verify another organizationÃ?’s story; in that case, we need not attribute the facts. But even then, as a matter of courtesy and candor, we credit an exclusive to the organization that first broke the news. [My emphasis.]
Although the Sun and the Journal appear to to be in accord with the Times' guideline, the Times does not. On July 3, the paper ran a piece on Jim Romenesko's salary entitled "For One Blogger, Fun and Profit." While the piece mentioned the anonymous blog Mediacrity, it neglected to mention that Mediacrity broke the story. Oops. Mediacrity then publicized that the Times had ripped off the story without appropriate attribution and e-mailed the paper.

The Times e-replied to Mediacrity that the paper would consider correcting the record if Mediacrity would forego anonymity:
If you will give your name, we will consider running a correction.
Someone at the Times seemed to be unfortunately confusing the Times' attribution policy (a good policy) with the Times' newfound effort to reduce reliance on anonymous sources (another good policy). As I have written elsewhere, Mediacrity's anonymity should in no way change the Times' obligation to "credit an exclusive to the organization that first broke the news," in accordance with the paper's own guideline.

When Mediacrity appealed to Byron Calame, the Times' public editor, Calame's response smacked of circling the wagons, to my mind not an appropriate role for the public editor.

Stay tuned.