After reading Friday’s Steve Hendrix-Bradford Noble email exchange, MSNBC.com’s Bob Sullivan wrote to Romenesko+ about the Daily Mail and Gawker picking up his story on a laid-off lawyer who’s now a stripper. “The Daily Mail copied it, we’ll say, extensively,” he writes. “Gawker did much the same.” Sullivan adds: “It’s all the worse because the story was 100% anonymous to protect the woman from future repercussions. In my case, the DM simply added a photo of a random stripper, which I thought was particularly tasteless.”
From BOB SULLIVAN: Loved the Daily Mail story. I have my own, from just last week – I’m doing a series on people taking unusual or dreadful jobs to make ends meet, and a recent piece involved a laid-off lawyer who’s now a stripper.
The DM copied it, we’ll say, extensively. It’s all the worse because the story was 100% anonymous to protect the woman from future repercussions. In my case, the DM simply added a photo of a random stripper, which I thought was particularly tasteless.
But that’s not the worst of it, I think. Gawker did much the same, albeit in fewer words, but gave me basically no credit at all. I know this is becoming common practice, but I sure hope it never becomes accepted practice. In character, I suppose, I sent a note or protest to Gawker’s editor and the writer and got no response. Here is my e-mail, where I try to make my case. As I mention below, copying a story where there can be no independent verification of information seems like the road to perdition to me.
I think this is an incredibly important issue. Where will we be when all the original writers get no credit (and payment) for their work?
My e-mail below to Gawker. Feel free to do as you will with it.
All the best,
From: Bob Sullivan (MSNBC-JV)
Sent: Thursday, September 15, 2011 8:48 PM
Subject: The right way and the wrong way — pilfering my lawyer-stripper story
I do appreciate that you read my story this week on the 30-something lawyer who turned to stripping to pay the bills.
You did your own version.
Copying the entire spirit and essence of my story, adding absolutely no independent information, while giving credit in fine print so small that Verizon or Bank of America would be proud.
Here at MSNBC we occasionally write pieces that have origins in the fine work you do there, and work hard to give you credit. Here are some recent examples.
* [Example 1]
We all know in the brave new world, some rules are being broken. But there is an obvious difference between copying something so it looks like your own work, with the least possible credit given to the original, and writing something derivative that gives an obvious hat tip to its creator. It’s obvious to everyone who looks what you’ve chosen to do here.
I find this particularly egregious – and perilous — in a story for which there can’t be even a shred of independent confirmation. The source is entirely anonymous. I am glad you completely trust my work to republish it, but if this is your way, there will certainly come a time when you copy something that is completely fabricated. It’s a good thing Jayson Blair isn’t writing for the NY Times in this brave new world.
Would it hurt anything to give proper credit to original creators? Would a prominent “a story that first appeared in msnbc.com” line hurt your traffic?
UPDATE: “Gawker fixed the story and added attribution to Sullivan,” says @matt_coyne