TV station deletes story that ripped off another publication, got facts wrong

Providence, R.I., TV station WLNE-TV (also known as ABC6) posted a story Friday that "inappropriately included facts from a article," General Manager Chris Tzianabos tells Poynter in an email.

"In addition to failing to give proper credit, ABC6 mistakenly misconstrued some of the facts. We regret our mistake and we have taken appropriate internal action." The station has since posted a correction.

The story, by Assignment Editor Gilannie Pangburn, is no longer on WLNE's website. It drew on a Thursday story by GoLocalProv reporter Kate Nagle that listed the 25 Providence restaurants with the highest number of health-code violations. "Twenty five of the city's restaurants have health code violations," Pangburn's story said, according to a screenshot on GoLocalProv's website.

Reached by phone, GoLocalProv Features Editor Tracey Minkin said she discovered the grab via a Google Alert she had set up for "Providence" and "food." It came on Saturday. "The mistake they made was the indicator that they must have stolen our story," Minkin said.

Josh Fenton, CEO of GoLocalProv's parent company, contacted WLNE to complain about the swipe, Minkin said. In a GoLocalProv story, Fenton said, "We were extremely careful with reporting the data. ABC6 plagiarized the story. Even worse, in their haste to rewrite the story, in contained statements that are incorrect.”

"We were very concerned not only that we had been stolen from but also that bad information was coming out, and we did not want that coming back to us," Minkin said. GoLocalProv is a 3-year-old digital news site serving Rhode Island's capital. I asked Minkin whether other local news orgs had pilfered from GoLocalProv stories. "We’re ripped off all the time," she said.

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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