How hyperlocal sites handle ‘micro-news’ in their communities

We’ve become familiar with the way Journatic — and the news organizations that outsource to it — are gathering and publishing local “micro-news” like school lunch menus, death notices, high school sports scores and real estate transactions. But we wondered: How else is this information being compiled?

To find out, I checked with some independent, online-only local news publishers. I asked them if they include this sort of content on their sites and how they collect it.

Tracy Record of West Seattle Blog said via email that her site handles this type of news in a variety of ways. High school sports coverage, for instance, is sometimes reported by attending games, or information might be pulled from schools’ websites and Twitter. Not every game can be covered, so Record said they depend on their own judgment and readers’ input to point them to the most newsworthy contests. Read more


San Francisco Chronicle will review Journatic content

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Journalism-outsourcing firm Journatic is under so many reviews it’ll soon need its own Metacritic page. The San Francisco Chronicle is now looking at the company’s work, Emily Lambert reports in Crain’s Chicago Business, joining its Hearst corporate sibling the Houston Chronicle in a critical look at Journatic. Journatic got bad notices at the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times and GateHouse, which have suspended or ended their relationships with the company.

The San Fran review can’t come soon enough, writes Rebecca Rosen Lum in FogCityJournal. Carl Hall of the Pacific Media Workers Guild told Lum “This level of deception would get our members fired.”

Any section edited by news staff should be held to the same standards as the rest of the paper, Hall said.

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Journatic problems are like lead paint that taint journalism but won’t stop progress

I’m not a Journatic hater.

That may be a minority position among journalists like me who focus on improving the quality of news.

But even as I abhor the plagiarism, fabrication and fake bylines, I also know that no matter how bad the behavior, there will absolutely be more companies like Journatic.

Outsourcing, content farming, Mechanical Turk-like records/data processing — these things are going to increase and find their place within journalism at news organizations large and small.

Journatic’s approach — and the change it represents — is not going away.

That means it’s important for journalism to find ethical, responsible and productive ways to integrate these approaches. To set benchmarks and guidelines for producing quality content using the kind of low-cost labor and mass production techniques that were long ago adopted in manufacturing. Read more


Hearst is reviewing Journatic content after false bylines published on Houston Chronicle sites

Hearst-owned newspapers are “reviewing content” supplied by journalism-outsourcing company Journatic after Poynter’s report Monday that the company published more than 350 false bylines on Houston Chronicle website stories.

The company issued the following statement through Chronicle Communications Director Nicki Britton:

Hearst Newspapers, including the flagship Houston Chronicle, is reviewing content it has received from Journatic. As part of this review, changes already have been made to their byline and attribution processes, and all archived content that resides on that carried misattributed bylines is in the process of being corrected. We are closely monitoring our relationship with Journatic to be certain that its work product meets the highest journalistic and ethical standards.

Related: Journatic published hundreds of stories under fake bylines on Houston Chronicle websites (Poynter) || Earlier: Journatic memo to staff: ‘DO NOT LIE ABOUT YOUR NAME’ | The Sun-Times and GateHouse end their relationships with Journatic, and the Tribune suspends it after plagiarism revelations, newsroom takes over TribLocal (Poynter) | Journatic worker takes ‘This American Life’ inside outsourced journalism (Poynter). Read more


Journatic published hundreds of stories under fake bylines on Houston Chronicle websites

Outsourcing company Journatic used previously undisclosed fake bylines on more than 350 stories published on behalf of the Houston Chronicle, Poynter has learned.

“Chad King” was not a real person.

This news comes on the heels of Journatic’s indefinite suspension Friday by the Chicago Tribune, which has retaken control of its TribLocal publications after learning that a Journatic writer plagiarized a story on one of its websites. Journatic also faced public criticism Saturday from a resigning executive.

This discovery also follows previous revelations that Journatic used fake bylines in other stories for the Houston Chronicle, as well as the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times and San Francisco Chronicle.

At the time of those first revelations, Journatic CEO Brian Timpone assured Poynter that the fake bylines were limited to real-estate news briefs produced by the company’s BlockShopper subsidiary. Read more


Tribune newsroom takes over TribLocal work done by Journatic

In a memo sent Sunday afternoon, Chicago Tribune Editor and Senior Vice President Gerould Kern told staff that the paper would once again be directly responsible for its suburban TribLocal content. In addition, “all Journatic news content is gone from TribLocal sites,” Kern clarified in an email forwarded to me. This change follows the Tribune’s decision, announced Friday, to suspend work with Journatic, which had taken over TribLocal on behalf of the company about three months ago.

At the time, Kern told the Tribune:

“We’ve made an investment in this company because we believe that it is a more effective way of providing hyperlocal news, and we think we can do more of it in this way.”

The move to suspend work with Journatic was precipitated by a plagiarized story revealed Friday and ongoing revelations about false bylines published in the Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Houston Chronicle and San Francisco Chronicle, featured on “This American Life” two weeks ago. Read more


Journatic claims it was about to fire editorial head who resigned

In an apparent attempt to neutralize a high-level critic, Journatic is now claiming it was about to fire an editorial executive who resigned from the company Saturday.

The resignation of Mike Fourcher, who worked at Journatic for only 10 weeks, is the latest sign of increasing trouble at the company, which provides brief stories for Hearst-owned news organizations, Tribune properties, and until recently for the Chicago Sun-Times and GateHouse, which both said they ended their contracts with the company.

After discovering that a Journatic writer had plagiarized a story, Tribune announced Friday night that it would suspend work with the company, though it is an investor and laid off about 20 journalists in April when it shifted responsibility to Journatic for its TribLocal suburban websites. Read more


Journatic memo to staff: ‘DO NOT LIE ABOUT YOUR NAME’

In a memo sent to Journatic staff Saturday morning, Amanda Smith-Teutsch, the outsourcing company’s community news manager, addressed the fallout from the Chicago Tribune’s discovery that writer Luke Campbell had plagiarized a story. The Tribune, a Journatic investor, announced Friday night that it would suspend work with the company for its TribLocal content.

From: Amanda Smith-Teutsch
Date: Sat, Jul 14, 2012 at 10:09 AM
Subject: This weekend’s news – Please read

Good morning everyone. Many of you have contacted me individually, and I want you to hear the news from the source and not second hand.

I am sure by now you have all seen this news. If you haven’t, please take a moment to read.

In an isolated incident, a writer committed plagiarism.

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Chicago Tribune discovers plagiarism, suspends work with Journatic

Vouchification | Chicago Tribune | Williamsburg Yorktown Daily | Illinois Times | Gazebo News
One of Journatic’s editorial leaders, Mike Fourcher, announced Saturday morning that he has resigned from the outsourcing company because he and the company’s founders “fundamentally disagree about ethical and management issues as they relate to a successful news business.” Journatic said late Saturday that it had planned to fire Fourcher before he resigned.

In a phone interview, Fourcher said, “I’m upset because I believe what Journatic was originally conceived to do was a good idea. It went off track.” Fourcher, who was with the company just 10 weeks, said “what we’re seeing is the result of a misguided set of priorities. Writers and editors are implicitly discouraged from doing high quality work for the sake of efficiency and making more money. Read more

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Departure of Baristanet founder doesn’t portend changes, says editor

With founder Debbie Galant taking a new job at Montclair State University, where she’ll join “an ambitious effort to nurture digital and hyperlocal journalism in New Jersey,” Baristanet co-owner Liz George now has a busier summer ahead of her.

But George said she doesn’t expect major changes in the hyperlocal site’s coverage or approach.

“We have such a mix of voices, I don’t think there’s going to be a dramatic change,” she said in a phone interview. “We have a sensibility that we’ve worked on for eight years, throughout the site.”

In the past several months, George said she and Galant spent most of their time managing the business and handling editorial issues, with some writing interspersed. She said it wasn’t a full-time job for either of them, though of course it will be harder with Galant gone and contributors away on summer vacations. Read more

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