Letter to Romenesko
From JACK EL-HAI:
News tip: Blogger accused of plagiarizing himself gets no credit
No, I’m not referring to Jonah Lehrer. I’m a freelance writer and book author who recently began blogging. In my blog I’ve been mining years of published articles that have been sitting around doing nobody, especially me, any good and to which I retain copyright ownership.
Last Friday, I blogged my story about a study during the 1930s in which a medical student ate nothing but White Castle hamburgers for 13 weeks. I had previously published this story in Minnesota Monthly magazine (2006) and in the magazine and blog of the Minnesota Medical Foundation of the University of Minnesota (2008). The medical foundation’s blog was not bylined.
When my blog post went up, I received via Twitter and blog comments several accusations that I had plagiarized the story from the U of M blog. Of course, I had written that story and retained publication rights to it. I managed to straighten out most of those people and even got apologies from a few.
Meanwhile, Gothamist and the Daily Mail of the UK got ahold of my Tweets or blog link and published their own stories on the White Castle study. (They’re here and here.) Neither story credited me with the original reporting, and only the Gothamist article linked back to my post. Both stories linked to the unbylined U of M blog post.
This odd sequence of events shows that readers care about the originality of what they read, and some news organizations put no thought into confirming the sources of their stories. They treat blogged material as press releases. What if everything in my original story was wrong? (It isn’t.) If the Daily Mail and Gothamist had done a minimum of fact-checking, they would have come to me, since I’m the only person who has ever reported the White Castle story. I like to see my stories recirculate, but I want the new articles to credit me for credibility’s sake and for my greater glory.
* 13 weeks eating nothing but White Castle (el-hai.com)