29 February 2012

Death of the deadline


Image via digitalcitizen.ca
Getting beat by a competitor with a breaking news story is part of being a journalist. It toughens you, whittles you down to your sharpest point, and fills you with fire to not let it happen again. 

When it happens with other stories — ones that might have taken months or even years to develop — the result is embarrassment. Why didn’t I see that? We might think. 

Few would argue that speed is not a driving value in the modern newsroom. But how important is speed when it comes to publishing news? Should accuracy suffer on account of speed? 

Traditionally, news was deadline-driven and only television or radio could break news in real-time. With the net, anyone with a connection can break news as it happens. This has essentially eliminated the need for a deadline, as news stories are often posted as they are written, with edits and updates amended as necessary. At the very latest, a news story will go live the day after it is written. Any longer than that and you risk being scooped. 

Sure we might still write to a deadline, or have a target for finishing a story. But the fluid nature of online news allows for constant updates and amendments and corrections and even conversations through the comments. Is an online story ever truly finished?

So rather than drive ourselves to be accurate, the rising tendency is to get it first and fix it later if it's wrong.

22 February 2012

What does it mean to own a creative work in a global society?

By David DesRoches

Type “plag” in a Google search box and “plagiarism” is the first word suggested. Second on the list is “plague.” Some rough logic would indicate that people are more interested in or concerned about plagiarism than they are about the danger of plagues. It’s no certain science, but it’s a good argument for people’s preoccupation with the theft of ideas. Wikipedia’s definition of plagiarism is replete with contradictions, arguments over degrees, even disagreements over its very existence. The page is in constant flux — it was last changed the day before I penned these lines. 

Type “is plag” and Google suggests “is plagiarism illegal.” People, including yours truly, are also interested in knowing if stealing intellectual property is in fact a crime. Some other Google suggestions: is plagiarism illegal, is plagiarism a crime, is it against the law, is it wrong, is it a federal offense, is it a misdemeanor, is it illegal in the U.S., is it cheating, is it ethical, is it theft, and is it on the rise. 

Plagiarism is not illegal in the U.S., although it depends on the degree of the theft. If it violates the Fair Use doctrine than it is a violation of copyright law. Copyright rules for the Web are not clear because of the international nature of the internet. However, the U.S. is arguably more lenient when it comes to prosecuting claims of copyright infringement than other countries. Asya Calixto, a lawyer in Prince Lobel's media and intellectual property group, said that "there isn’t a rule of thumb when it comes to fair use, and that the doctrine is very case-specific."

In one case, Righthaven LLC vs. Realty One Group Inc., the court found that the use of eight sentences from a 30-sentence story was Fair Use in part because it took facts from the story and not creative interpretations of those facts. "The closer you get to non-factual interpretations, comments, or conclusions, the more likely it is that your use would constitute copyright infringement," Calixto said.

16 February 2012

The postmodern plagiarist pushes journalism into a corner

Image (c) itfipvirtual.net

Plagiarism is necessary. Progress implies it. It holds tight an author’s phrase, uses his expressions, eliminates a false idea, and replaces it with just the right idea.”
– Comte de Lautréamont, 1870
This controversial quote sends chills into the spines of journalists who have been plagiarized. Most of us take ownership of the work our hands and minds create, if not legally, at least intellectually. But proponents of de Lautréamont's mantra might consider his acumen insightful. One person in particular, postmodern activist Guy Debord, was so enamored with this concept that he actually plagiarized the exact phrase, in French, in his 1967 work, The Society of the Spectacle.

In the art world, stealing is often considered a form of flattery. For centuries, originality was shunned as art and literature were judged on how well the creator imitated the masters. But things changed as western societies entered the Romantic period, and an individual’s right to ownership of a creative or literary work became a value to rival society’s right to common property.

06 February 2012

Aggregation tests traditional notions of sourcing and accountability

 “A thousand bloggers all talking to each other doesn’t get you a report from a war zone. Somebody’s got to take a real risk... [and] gather that news originally.”
- Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales,
in Page One documentary

Media blogger Jim Romenesko gained a Twitter following of more than 45,000 people (and growing) by being a maverick paraphraser — a sensei in the art of finding interesting news and distilling it to its essence. His success germinated while working at the Poynter Institute where he helped pioneer an aggregation style that now permeates the web. He was responsible for hundreds of thousands of hits to other websites, giving them free advertising through his enticing summaries.
In late 2011, Romenesko’s aggregation techniques became the subject of hot debate and derision when his boss, Julie Moos, posted a blog that challenged his practices and claimed his attributions were incomplete. She provided examples where Romenesko failed to include quotation marks around certain phrases within his aggregated story.