Letter to Romenesko: ‘It’s infuriating when someone just steals my work’

From ELAINE SILVESTRINI: Just thought I would send you my Facebook posting. I work at The Tampa Tribune, which laid off 165 people in December — our eighth round of layoffs. So it’s infuriating when someone just steals my work.

P.S. According to Newser, this guy has written 9,440 stories since he joined the site in November 2007. If that’s not a business model for theft, I don’t know what is.

Elaine Silvestrini

[Paging Newser’s Rob Quinn: Feel free to comment on Silvestrini’s remarks, or send me an email. I couldn’t find your email address.]

Here’s her Facebook post:

Ok – all you new media champions, please explain to me HOW IS THIS NOT THEFT. Story on Newser (with some guy’s byline!) is a total crib job of my story in the Trib. Not one fact in here that’s not in my story. And even lifted some quotes that I had. No other reporters were in the courtroom. There is a link buried in there to my original story, but this guy didn’t spend the whole day in court covering this sentencing or plow through a 3-inch stack of court filings. I found his story linked of Huffington Post (which says, “Read the whole story at Newser). So I ask again, HOW IS THIS NOT THEFT?

Here’s my original.

I understand Elaine’s frustration, but this strikes me as a standard Newser/Huffington Post/other aggregator rewrite. In fact, I’ve seen far worse cases of over-aggregation — and I suspect Romenesko readers will cite their story-lifting examples in the comments section. (I wasn’t thrilled to see this Mediaite copy-and-paste job on Friday.)

* Elaine Silvestrini’s story || The Newser rewrite
* What it’s like to get used and abused by Huffington Post



  1. whatadilemma said:

    So is using a local newspaper’s reporting and re-reporting the rest more acceptable when it’s on a newspaper site that doesn’t provide a link (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2111673/Rick-Ehlert-jailed-months-drunkenly-dropping-MS-Ryndams-anchor-cruise.html?ito=feeds-newsxml) or on a national TV news blog that also doesn’t provide a link (http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2012/03/man-sentenced-for-cruise-ship-prank/)?

    This is an old question in a new format. I’m not sure why Newser’s model is any worse than other legacy outlets, and in some ways it’s better. The Daily Mail and ABC offer credit but no reason or link to actually visit the original story.

  2. It is my humble opinion that an ethical aggregator should both credit the source as well as link to it.

    I certainly do this when it is relevant when I write news content and when I blog about what’s happening in the industry. Pew Center, Poynter and many more that I read deserve not only the credit, but the opportunity for my blog readers to check out what they’ve written. That is a layer of transparency that gives my readers a chance to check out the source and judge whether my reasoning on an opinion is sound. It also gives them an opportunity to hold me accountable when my logic is flawed.

    While this complaint is about something what seems to have become an accepted reality of online news, I think she is correct. Her work seems to have been “lifted” by another.

    The technical term, I believe, is plagiarism. One need not look back very far within the print industry to see how harshly (and justly) that has been treated.

  3. Stephen said:

    This is why Germany is now advancing legislation that will make sentences and fractions of sentences protected under copyright. I think we will see the same here in the United States within the decade. The Hot News doctrine has not gotten traction, but this keeps coming up again and again. It’s not going to keep coming up, because, frankly, it is unfair. We can expect something lilke the German legislation to land on our shores someday.

  4. Nancy Imperiale said:

    I long for the day when this problem will be solved by rehiring actual journalists to write actual stories, not dipshits who don’t know a semicolon from a source document to “compile” things others work their butts off to produce.

    I also long for the day when aggregators choose to stop turning to legacy media, which has cut journalism to the core and left skeleton staffs who can’t properly produce anything worth reading these days. Tribune, Gannett, et al are the enemies of Journalism and they need to die, die, die.

  5. Happen to be at a St*rbucks right now, but wanted to comment on this entry. Lately, I’ve begun to feel that there is too much fuzzy thinking about this issue with diverse elements being conflated.

    Quinn did not steal Elaine’s story; he may have stolen some of her content, but he repurposed it for a different mission: Entertainment. Elaine’s story is about a drunken guy who did not recognize the boundaries of civility, transgressed those boundaries, and acted like a pirate, possibly endangering other passengers’ safety.

    Is this a Johnnie Depp – Jack Sparrow movie? Most of Qunn’s readers thought it was “hilarious.” This is even more troubling.

  6. This happened to me last week. One online publishing house took one story I wrote and republished it in its entirety on not one but FOUR of their related Web sites. Didn’t even bother to kiss me on the lips with a link back to the original source material.

    Had I copied someone another reporter’s original reporting and used it verbatim in four other stories, it wouldn’t be called aggregation. It would be called “grounds for dismissal.”

  7. Dan said:

    Jeff, why do you not name the perpetrator?