How The Mainstream Media Stole Our News Story Without Credit

On Friday, I broke a tasty story about a woman suing Google, claiming bad directions caused her to get hit by a vehicle. Today, I discover our story is everywhere, often with no attribution. Come along and watch how the mainstream media, which often claims bloggers rip it off, does a little stealing of its own.

Woman Follows Google Maps “Walking” Directions, Gets Hit, Sues was the story I posted on Friday afternoon, Pacific Time. I was tipped to the lawsuit by Gary Price of ResourceShelf. Gary hadn’t written about it himself but thought Search Engine Land would be interested in it. He came across it through the regular monitoring of search-related news that he does across a variety of resources (Gary watches many, many things — he’s a research guru extraordinaire). Gary downloaded a copy of the suit via the PACER Service and sent it to me.

No one had written about the case before I put my article up. I know. I checked before publishing. There was nothing out there. So what happened next?

I’ll Steal Your Image, But I Won’t Link To You

Let’s start with the Daily Mail’s story here. We get no attribution, but I know they found the story from us. My evidence? They’re using a screenshot I made, without my permission and without credit.

It’s a screenshot of the route from Google Maps. Sure, the Daily Mail could have generated their own route using Google Maps. But, they didn’t. “Their” image is cropped exactly the same as mine and includes an arrow I added to point to a warning on Google Maps.

Since the image was created by me, for Search Engine Land, and is a transformation of the original Google “work,” the copyright that the Daily Mail is violating belongs to Search Engine Land.

Postscript: There’s some debate in the comments on whether altering a Google screenshot as I did provides me with a copyright. Let’s say it doesn’t. That still doesn’t excuse the Daily Mail in my books for just taking the picture without any credit at all. Common courtesy still has a place.

The Financial Post does the same thing, uses my exact image — so they had to have seen my story — but they don’t bother to link over or provide attribution.

Postscript: Jameson Berkow from the Financial Post got in touch soon after I posted my story to apologize, saying there was originally a link to our article in his piece but which got lost along with other links through some technical glitch (which I can totally understand happening. I’ve lived through those myself). When he fixed the missing links, ours got overlooked accidentally but now has been restored. I’m also good with the usage of our illustration, since the article links over to me.

I’ll Link To Your Source Document, But Not You

Over at PC World, a different twist. Rather than link to my story, they linked to the source documentation — the lawsuit — that I uploaded to my personal Scribd account.

I created this account on Friday, so it’s not something you’d just stumble upon in the course of independent news gathering. Maybe PC World saw someone else linking to it and so never saw my story.

Maybe. Then again, as part of the news reporting process, I think tracking down originating sources is important. Where did this document come from? The Scribd file links over to my original story. If you wanted to backtrack the origin of this document (say, perhaps, to know if it was actually real), you’d probably head over to my story.

Either PC World did this, and didn’t think credit was necessary, or it failed to fully fact check the story.

Postscript: PC World has added a link now, thanks, and the author commented about coming across my story after finding other ones about it.

By Omission, Someone Else Becomes The Source

Regardless of how it happened, the PC World story is an example of something else, how a second party can become the originating source.

That PC World story? CBS News cited it as the source for its own story. That, again, makes you question some of the news reporting that is supposed to go on by the mainstream media. The reporting, that accounts often say, blogs themselves fail to do.

CBS simply seems to have summarized the PC World story, ending with a link to PC World plus a link to the complaint itself — the complaint I uploaded. Clearly no one tried to track down the complaint’s origin more. No apparent attempt to independently verify if the case was real. (FYI, unlike CBS, I actually did call the legal firm in the case on Friday).

That CBS story also flowed out to affiliated CBS news stations, such as here and here.

Postscript: CBS, after seeing this, added a link — thanks!

Over at the Atlantic Wire, PC World again gets cited, but not us. also is cited in that Atlantic Wire round-up of commentary on the case. Despite the fact prominently links to us (thanks!), that doesn’t make it into the Atlantic’s story.

Postscript: They’ve since added a link, thanks!

Time Magazine also does the same, linking to the Scribd document and the PC World story.

Postscript: They’ve since added a link, thank you.

AOL News did similarly, linking to the complaint — which was almost certainly found by reading our story — but not to our story itself. As a result, places like the New York Daily News, nineMSN and The Register cite AOL News as the source.

Postscript: AOL has since added a link, thanks!

It’s not just mainstream media that screwed up, however. Even Gizmodo, a well known tech blog, overlooked us. They linked to Fortune, which in turn linked to us. But we didn’t get a mention at Gizmodo.

Postscript: Originally I’d had written further below:

Semi-thanks to Gizmodo. They linked to Fortune, which linked to us. But hey Gizmodo, next time, show a brother-blog some love and give us a direct link.

It came up in comments that this was being too soft on Gizmodo, compared to some of the mainstream publications that I dinged for linking to an intermediary source. I agreed, explained why this happened and have changed the story to ding them properly.

Having said that, about an hour after this story when live, Gizmodo added us as a source like this:

[Search Engine Land via Fortune]

I’ve often seen them show the story trail across multiple sources this way, which I think is well done.

Want to see attribution done right? Over at Inc, they appared to have spotted the PC World story first. But further down, there’s this:

First reported by SearchEngineLand

Thanks! And thanks to others who linked, including:

The News, It Just Sprang From Our Forehead

Though I’m a traditionally trained reporter, most of my journalism has been online, where documenting how a story has been found is both easily done (through links) and often done. Bloggers generally explain how they discovered a news item.

As a result, bloggers also set themselves up for accusations that they’ve just “ripped off” some traditional news outlet. By carefully listing an originating source, and sometimes a “via” source, they expose how news flows.

In contrast, a traditional media outlet typically does not document how a story came to life. It’s all a mystery. News just seems to emerge magically out of thin air in the middle of a newsroom. Or, it’s down to all those hard-working reporters out there defending democracy despite newspapers earning less these days because of all those rip-off bloggers.

For example, the Salt Lake Tribune published the Google Maps story yesterday, three days after our story went up. How did the paper discover the news?

In a lawsuit filed last week in U.S. District Court for Utah…

Well, lawsuits are public. Newspapers regularly check on them, in their areas. In fact, that’s exactly what Tribune reporter Chris Smart told me, when I called him today to ask about the origin of his story. Smart said the Tribune has a federal courts reporter who checks for filings each day.

I used to work for daily newspapers. I know courts reporters do this. But our story went up late on Friday afternoon Pacific time. How come the Tribune didn’t have its own story then? A full day had passed from when the case was filed to when it could have been written up. But it wasn’t.

Did the reporter come in on Saturday, Sunday or Monday — over a holiday weekend — and check the records?

There was some discussion between Chris and someone else in the newsroom, then I was handed over to the federal courts reporter herself. She eventually said that someone in the newsroom heard a rumor about this case, and she was called in to help locate it on Monday using the PACER system.

Now let’s imagine how the Tribune’s story would have looked, if that fact had been reported:

After hearing a rumor about a case involving Google Maps, which someone saw on TV or read on a blog or we don’t really know where, we checked court records ourselves to find the case which says….

Whatever rumor the Tribune heard, which finally got them to cover a story three days late in their own backyard, that rumor started with our story. Despite this, the Tribune became the originating source as cited by places such as, the San Francisco Business Times and elsewhere.

Postscript: The SF Business Times, after seeing this, kindly added a link!

Beyond the Tribune, there are plenty of other places where the story was apparently just discovered out of the blue, including:

I especially like how this happens over at The Sun. The story there, by “Staff Reporter,” gives no clue about how a British tabloid owned by News Corporation came across a story that happened over 5,000 miles away. Wire report? Saw it on a blog? Is there a Sun reporter based in Park City, Utah?

We’ll Cite You, But Not Link To You

Mashable reported on our story, and like a reputable blog, they linked to us. But Mashable’s content appears to be syndicated into places like the Sydney Morning Herald — and our link got dropped in that.

That’s bad for us, as we lose traffic. It’s also bad for Sydney Morning Herald readers, who may want to read our original story.

Postscript: They’ve since added a link, thank you.

Related to this, both Fox News Memphis and Fox News LA cite Mashable for their story, which makes me think all Fox News affiliates are sharing this piece. Since Mashable is credited, was it too hard to cite Search Engine Land as the original source?

Postscript: The story has since added a link, thanks!

The Salt Lake Tribune also gets cited, which underscores a point I made earlier. Instead of original reporting going on, plenty of mainstream publications are happy to simply “echo chamber” a story that originated on a blog in the same way that blogs are often accused of doing to mainstream publications.

And Now, It’s From The AP

The Associated Press has filed on the story. Here’s the entire thing so far (the story will no doubt grow as they do more reporting). I’m going to reprint the entire thing. I feel this is allowed by fair use, as it’s required to show the entire story in order to fully comment about it:

PARK CITY, Utah (AP) — A woman who says she relied on Google for walking directions in Utah that got her hit on a major roadway has filed a lawsuit against the Internet company claiming it supplied unsafe directions.

Lauren Rosenberg filed the $100,000 lawsuit Thursday in U.S. District Court in Utah. It also names a motorist she says hit her.

A Google spokeswoman also did not return a message from The Associated Press seeking comment.

Rosenberg says she used her BlackBerry to download walking directions from Google Maps between two Park City addresses.

The Los Angeles County resident claims the directions led her to walk through Park City on a road without sidewalks that she says isn’t safe for pedestrians.

Rosenberg couldn’t be reached Tuesday. Her attorneys did not return messages.

As with the Tribune, where’s the information about how the AP discovered this story? Did the reporter come across someone else writing about it? If so, how about a credit? And if so, did they actually pull the case itself from PACER? Or did they download the document I put out there, like many others seem to have done?

Speaking of the Tribune, that paper is owned by MediaNewsGroup, which is led by Dean Singleton, who is also chairman of the Associated Press. Singleton and the AP have been vocal that blogs often rip them off for news content.

My Do Newspapers Owe Google “Fair Share” Fees For Researching Stories? story has another example of a story that emerged from blogs and into the AP wire without attribution.

I think that if the AP or traditional publications like the Salt Lake Tribune documented exactly how they “found” news in the way blogs do, there’d be a fair reassessment of just how much flows back and forth. It’s not all a one way street, from traditional news outlets to blogs.

Can’t We All Get Along?

That brings me back to another piece I wrote last year, Blogs & Mainstream Media: We Can & Do Get Along. I’d like to see a lot less finger-pointing and much more acknowledgment that the origin of news is a messy business.

So why am I pointing fingers in this case? To help keep things even. I think it’s very well known how traditional sources get cited by alternative ones. But while the opposite is true, that’s a story that’s rarely illustrated.

I’ll also add that I know mistakes and misunderstandings can happen with attribution. I try to get it right, but I know I’m not perfect. I also know there are times we’ve reported on a story, credited someone else but nonetheless ended up as a originating source. News is messy. But we should all try to do better attribution.

Postscript: Aside from the fairness of attribution, linking to sources brings those sources support with traffic. Our story at Search Engine Land has had 30,000 page views just from being mentioned in the Toronto Star’s write-up. If other places like the Daily Mail or the Sun had linked, we’d have even more visitors, which is important to a relatively small publication. My Thanks For The Link, Mainstream Media — Now Let’s Have More! post from 2007 has more thoughts on wanting to see more mainstream linking.


  1. says

    Really disappointing. Might be worthwhile to buy a domain and set it up to crowd-source an ongoing list of instances where this happens.

    The mainstream reader needs to know that things are not as they seem (i.e. mainstream publishers aren’t necessarily better or more qualified than independent publishers)

  2. Marshall Kirkpatrick says

    (in newspaper guy voice) “you are a tiny pissant, you blah-ger, your complaints are irrelevant and there’s nothing you can do about it. why don’t you go get a real job at a real journalistic outfit? oh, because you are too busy destroying that fine institution with your off-the-cuff ‘reporting’ which is irrelevant anyway. also, i have never heard of you before and even thinking about twitter makes me want to wet my pants.”

  3. Anne says

    I understand your frustration but I think complaining about someone taking a Google screenshot is pushing it. The thing is, this story happened whether or not you reported it. Nobody has to credit you because you are not the story. I feel your pain, but you flagged up information in the public domain and other people used it too. There’s a limit to how much you can moan about that.

  4. Anne says

    Also, re this:

    “After hearing a rumor about a case involving Google Maps, which someone saw on TV or read on a blog or we don’t really know where, we checked court records ourselves to find the case which says….”

    News stories aren’t written that way. No editor would have let that pass. And the fact is competing news outlets aren’t out to show brother-love.

  5. says

    Anne, they didn’t take a Google screenshot. Read the story again. They took a Google screenshot I had specifically modified. There’s plenty to “moan” about there. It’s a copyright violation, pure and simple.

    I also addressed that the information is in the public domain. I understand news reports aren’t written to document how reporters come across the public domain info that they find. I’m also well aware of how traditional publications will routinely avoid crediting that they discovered news in a rival. I covered that in a previous piece that I mentioned:

    But the point is that you have a number of traditional publications complaining that bloggers are somehow ripping them off, that they somehow originate all the news out there (plenty of which is also in the public domain). They’re attracting the ear of people like the FTC seeking special protections:

    So this is less a moan and more, as I said at the end, a little illustration for balance in that debate.

  6. says

    Danny, I know it wouldn’t help this article, but wouldn’t it be even a little bit funny if you broke the scribd url and only updated the link on Search Engine Land? It’s too bad you don’t host the file yourself instead of scribd, you could upload a different document in its place, or even better redirect it to this article.

  7. says

    Unfortunately, Danny, most mainstream news consumers don’t care who scooped the story, they just want to hear the story. As long as that’s the case, the origin of the scoop will go undetected and scoopers will often (but not always) be overlooked.

  8. says

    Dude, Good story. Good moral. Elephant in the room and all that.

    But first you need to copy edit the really, truly, glaring typos in your first couple of grafs. Yowzers. Hurts your pro-journo claims to credibility.

    It is ironic that broadcasters have done to newspapers (for decades) what you now claim they are doing to you.

    How many times have you heard a story on local radio say “According to published reports.” instead of the truth – “An exclusive report from the Chicago Sun-Times?”

  9. says

    Danny, thanks for the shout about Mashable. I’ll definitely look into why the links got dropped with the syndication and see if that’s something we can resolve.

    Vadim Lavrusik, Community Manager

  10. says

    Hey Danny,

    I’m responsible for Mashable’s syndication deal with the Sydney Morning Herald, and you bring up a really important point. I’ll contact them directly and ensure that all article links are kept intact.

    This is a brand new program with their publication, so we’re ironing out the kinks, but your concern is extremely valid.

    Thanks for spotting that.

  11. says

    Thanks for sharing your experience with mainstream media “borrowing” news from the blogosphere without proper credit and attribution. It is ironic that MSM claim that blogs steal their content when they are actually mining cyberspace for stories to tell. In the echo chamber of news, I always appreciate knowing “who’s on first” and where the seed of a story sprouted.
    Julie Drizin

  12. says

    Danny, I feel your pain. I’m not one of the “die, newspapers, die!” crowd, but the self-righteousness of the professional media about where their stories come from sometimes tempts me to join up with them. And as you know from your background, it’s an old joke that the local TV news would have nothing to run if they couldn’t read the newspapers in the morning. None of them have any shame.

    I wrote a post about similar behavior (though of content with less original reporting than your own post) <a href="; a couple of months ago. What the TV news guys do to newspapers, and what the newspapers did to you, lots and lots of reporters do to their shameful secret, the local PR guy or PIO.

  13. says

    Ben, I had thought about hosting the file directly, but sometimes there are issues with that on WordPress. I also wanted to try Scribd for the first time, to have the inline display. But I made sure to link over to our original article, figuring people would click over. Actually have to check the stats and see how many did!

    Blake, yep, I understand many consumers don’t care. But that doesn’t mean news publishers don’t cite. Bloggers tend to cite mainstream sources more than those sources cite bloggers, that’s my gut feel. It’s something I hope begins to change.

    Robb, I did a run through after I posted and fixed many typos about 5 minutes after the story went live. It’s often easier for me to spot if I push and profof. I’ll take another look.

    I also understand that you often don’t hear radio reports giving a source. TV is the same way. In fact, newspapers are often irritated when their reports are used without credit in this way. But also, you sometimes don’t have the credit because if any publication uses a wire service such as the AP, they don’t have to often credit.

    In cases of real scoops, you do often hear the Wall Street Journal or etc… is reporting. The key is that ANY news report should source where the information is coming from. If only the WSJ has the news, then you source that.

    In this case, the news is public, it’s a public lawsuit. But clearly plenty of the publications I’ve cited didn’t actually read the lawsuit. They simply summarized what others were saying. Those who did read the suit — and linked to it — simply read a suit I uploaded, which could have been completely made up. That’s not reporting; that’s not citing a news source.

    Vadim, Tamar, thanks.

  14. says

    Hi, Danny … thanks for documenting the trail. This is an excellent case-study for (a) digital literacy and (b) journalism classes.

  15. says

    I don’t understand why Gizmodo gets a (semi)pass – is it because they aren’t traditional media?

    “Semi-thanks to Gizmodo. They linked to Fortune, which linked to us. But hey Gizmodo, next time, show a brother-blog some love and give us a direct link.”

    Are they not still guilty of the same thing the others are accused of – not linking directly to the source – especially when the source is referenced in what they are citing?

    You should absolutely be credited as source, by all outlets reporting info clearly lifted from your post, not just ‘traditional media’ outlets.

  16. nunya says

    “Come along and watch out the mainstream media, which often claims bloggers rip it off, does a little stealing of its own.”
    “Come along and watch how the mainstream media, which often claims bloggers rip it off, does a little stealing of its own.”
    a concerned redditor

  17. Ricardo says


    The complaints from big media on how the “internet and blogs are stealing [their] business” are nothing short of ludicrous.

    Techcrunch has also written about it.

    What they [big media] have probably failed to realise is the very definition of “hypertext”: “…a way of connecting pieces of text so that you can go quickly and directly from one to another” and they continue about their business as if they were still only trying to sell newspapers on the local news stand. Yes, the news stand is still a market (even I prefer the hardcopy at times), but if they have any hope whatsoever of making it online they need to clear up what the world wide web actually is through a basic clarification of terms.

    It’s built into the very vocabulary of it “web”, “net” and, as I’ve already mentioned, “hypertext.”


    PS – then again, they probably know these terms very well but refuse to acknowledge them.


    Additionally, there have also been cases of them not fact-checking their stories (one that pops to mind is an April fool’s joke from Google this year – unfortunately I don’t recall the exact details nor the link – only that it was jumped on by one or two “reputable” news sites despite the fact that it was clearly an April Fool’s joke).

    Despite this, they continue to complain (as you say) about bloggers stealing their content when they move like dinosaurs in a high-tech world. In some way, I feel they still hope to hold onto their “monopoly of information for profit”

  18. says

    Michelle, because when I started this piece, I was working through examples one-by-one, then toward the end realized there was a a better way to tell it and shifted my narrative to group things differently.

    Gizmodo was a remaining outlier at the end that didn’t quite fit easily in how I restructred things, because I hadn’t mentioned Fortune already (as I did with PC World or, so I was looking for a way to tuck them in as an example of a blog NOT getting it right. That’s where I stuck them.

    I didn’t take it as praise to them. I thought it was kind of slamming them, actually. That’s why I made the intentional point of keeping them in. But maybe I’ll rework it.

  19. says

    I’m glad you’re taking the time to point all of this out. It’s about time that the “mainstream” media gets a taste of their own medicine, right?

    I’m really not surprised at all, to be honest with you. There are a lot of other reports every single day that get filed as “articles” on mainstream sites that don’t get this treatment.

    I agree with Michelle, gizmodo doesn’t really deserve a ‘semi’ pass, they really could still link to you and give SE Land the credit.

  20. joereg4 says

    This guy does his homework, if you’re inclined to steal someone’s story don’t mess with Mr. Sullivan!

  21. Chris Fyall says

    Interesting piece, and fun to think about.

    I think it’s a little bit rough to say the entire MSM stole this story, though. Although it may be of small consolation, after PC World, it seems that most American news outlets made at least a cursory effort to identify their respective tipsters. Determining the originator of a story adds value for readers, but I don’t think it adds a lot.

    Of course, if PC World had acknowledged your blog, perhaps this entire episode would have gone differently. It is for that reason that I think the early involvement of the Daily Mail makes this a little less relevant as a case study.

    If PC World first read about the case at the Daily Mail, the reporter essentially had to reverse engineer the story by finding case documents. I wouldn’t blame her at all for failing to attribute the Daily Mail.

  22. says

    “In contrast, a traditional media outlet typically does not document how a story came to life. It’s all a mystery. News just seems to emerge magically out of thin air in the middle of a newsroom. ”

    A few years back, I experimented with a format called “source blocks“, and still use it today at the end of some of my blog posts to let readers know what sources I contacted or reviewed in the course of making the story.

    A typical source block might look like this:

    Sources cited, referenced, or consulted:,, an email from Jason Preston.

    For longer or more thoroughly researched posts, there might be 10 or more individual items that are mentioned.

    The idea behind source blocks is to improve transparency in a relatively lightweight manner (if you don’t include direct links, a typical source block takes less than a minute to manually create.)

    Unfortunately, the idea did not take hold, perhaps because it is an imperfect and manual process. However, with better tools (perhaps some sort of browser add-on) it might have a better chance of being used by bloggers, reporters, and others, and giving more credit to the sources of information that drive the news/discussions cycles.

  23. jessica says

    If the news outlets followed up with their own original reporting, I wouldn’t say they were ripping you off. Few stories say who tipped them off, and that’s perfectly ok.

  24. says

    Danny, I’m glad you documented this. I originally worked at United Press International — “yesterday’s news tomorrow”:>) — and later at newspapers (which I hope to see survive, even though I’m now at a non-profit journalism outlet called InvestigateWest). You should have been given credit and linked to by outlets that simply lifted your work and repackaged it. Those that did original reporting? I’m not so sure about those. It would be different if you’d done *lots* of reporting, but going on PACER and reading a suit that others can read, too? That’s arguable, I’d say.
    Let me also echo Robb Montgomery and thank you for fixing the typos. However, re-read your lede, man. I think what you want is “Come along and watch HOW the mainstream media,” etc., sted “Come along and watch OUT the mainstream media,” etc. (I’d have e-mailed you privately on the last point but couldn’t quickly find an e-mail address.)
    Keep up the good work,
    Robert McClure

  25. says

    Chris, agreed, I’m taking a broad license with the headline. The entire mainstream media didn’t steal the story. In fact, there are some examples of where they cited us clearly.

    I also know its debatable whether anyone “steals” a story that’s coming off a public document. But to me, it’s not that hard for anyone who is days late in discovering the story to do a courtesy “as first reported by” type of thing. But I get why that doesn’t happen, for various reasons.

    I think the Daily Mail is actually one of the worse situations. They don’t say at all how they discovered the story. I don’t know if they first read of it in PC World or any other source. There’s no way to tell. But I can tell they’re using my exact screenshot. To do that, someone almost certainly came to my site and grabbed it.

    With PC World, since they linked to the document I posted, which is on my personal Scribd account with a link to my story, as I said, I feel like they should have been able to figure out where that document came from and source it appropriately.

    I actually have server logs that can let me check for visits, but the difficulty is that a reporter might be only one of thousands who come — and not always will their “service provider” name match the publication they came from.

    On May 31, I can see I had visits from places like Fox News, Cox Newspapers, Associated Newspapers (they publish the Daily Mail) and the Deseret News, among others.

  26. says

    Danny my friend, don’t get all crazy about it. Do you know how hard now day’s is to find THE source? I mean stuff get’s re-written 1000 times and everyone finds it’s “original source” from where they read about it.

    Do you know how many stories I broke and in matter of seconds same stuff I read on other “top” sites? Sure some link, some don’t.

    About your Google screenshot. Dude, ever heard of watermark? :) Go to BGR (Boy Genius Report) and take one of their pictures without f**ing up the whole picture :) ….So next time , just put watermark on your picture if you think you are THE source.

    By the way you used Google Maps and took snapshot , thats copyright right there :)

    Ok enough about dumping sh** on you my friend.

    I think it’s unfair from many that they didn’t give you some 15 minutes fame on TV and because you broke the story. Thing is reporters do go on site and check stuff out and they don’t have to credit others. Ever seen reporters up-front of your house? Like 50 of them writing same sh** just so NBC does not credit FOX or CNN :)

    Listen, been blogging for 7 years now, been trying to write to people just like you did above, 2 hours later it’s going to get boring and you will probably forget about it within 48hours… So let me ask you…Are your nerves that much worth?

  27. says

    Agreed, Robert. My piece had stuff not in the case (I looked up the route, compared to the route instructions that Bing gave), but little to none of that was cited by other accounts. They’re all built around the case document itself. It’s just that it seems clear plenty of these source didn’t go to PACER to get the filing. They downloaded the case from my personal account on Scribd. The “reporting” in some cases seemed to be that they read the story on my site or heard about it through my site but didn’t do much legwork beyond that. So, I felt they deserve a few dings. I’ve seen worse, of course — one paper lifted an original quote from me, no attribution at all. But agreed, this is one folks can argue. And sorry on the typos. Got that fixed, too.

    Joe, I’m not THAT bothered about the screenshot. Actually, I usually post them out to Flickr with an invitation that anyone can use them if they just link back. I was too busy to do so in this case. I’m mainly pointing it out to highlight that the Daily Mail clearly seems to have gotten the story from my site, completely with helping themselves to the image. A link would have been nice, but I’m not losing sleep over it. I’m not even livid with anger. More bemused. That’s just the way things tend to go. But in this particular case, it seems an interesting illustration to put out there and share.

  28. says

    Do you know who’s the worst in citing? PC World and ComputerWorld they almost NEVER cite other sites on top of that, if they let’s say link to twitter, that link actually links to another of their posts “what’s twitter” lol

  29. says

    In reviewing Daily Mail, it doesn’t appear that they give link credit to anyone, regardless of the story. On images obtained elsewhere they don’t crop out the copyright but there is no way of knowing where it actually originated.

    If they don’t want to give specific credit, they just attribute the story to a catch-all Mail Foreign Service.

    External footer links are nofollow as well.

    Next time I hear a story like this I’ll think of this article and say they were “Daggled” and provide attribution of course:)

  30. says

    I think the worst oversight is that of’s which links to an article crediting AOL as the source. That’s thousands and thousands of missed unique visitors that SE Land should have had.

  31. says

    Sad to see this happens. It also goes to show how the chain is only as strong as the weakest link, in this case it was PCWorld and Daily Mail who seemed to have found the story on your site and chose not to link to you intentionally. Then it crumbles apart as the rest of the sites simply were too lazy to link to the real source, instead choosing to link to where they read about it.

    In the end, its the big name sites that will get all of the credit, and traffic from a story which you spent time working on. Sorry that you got screwed Danny. If it’s worth anything, you have a fantastic site which I personally enjoy reading.

  32. says

    Excellent post — the detailed list of examples really clarifies who’s doing it right and who isn’t.

  33. says

    Oh I feel your pain. Just a few weeks ago I had two local news stations use my YouTube footage to illustrate a story. A story for them, but a problem in the city many people and neighbors and local gov. leadership were working hard on (prior to media coverage) trying to resolve in a timely manner. No attribution whatsoever.

    Then one station even took their perception of their own magical media powers to a whole new level by loudly declaring in their promotional efforts that THEY alone had solved the entire city civil works project conundrum – singlehandedly.

    Was absolutely maddening.

  34. netmeg says

    I have the same EXACT problem every year, on a local level. I have an event site. It’s unique in scope and very popular this time of year. I go to a LOT of trouble to research the events, confirm them, write the descriptions. But every year the local Detroit newspaper and TV station websites swipe my events and publish them – with MY descriptions, mind you (and sometimes even my own CSS!!) without attribution. It’s plain out on my website that anyone can republish, as long as they give attribution and a link back. I actually got a station manager on the phone who told me that once they take the events, it’s THEIR story, and there’s nothing “some little website” (which outranks them for the events) can do about it. This one even had the nerve to complain that I wasn’t linking to her TV station’s website, and when I said how about the link back to me, she said no, we don’t know who you are, and we don’t have to link to you. But YOU should link to us.

    Ugh, I get angry every time I think of it so I have to stop. It’s happened every year since about 2003 or so.

  35. says

    I’ve enjoyed following this story over the Holiday Weekend, particularly as I live in Park City! I RT’d your Tweet, wrote my own blog post about some additional thoughts I had about the case and then watched as the story appeared in the local media here in Utah (w/o any attribution of course).

    This seems to be an interesting case study, particularly in light of a recent FTC draft on journalism, btw I highly recommend reading Jeff Jarvis’s excellent post about it. In any event, I hope you continue to get appropriate credit for scooping a really interesting story, and where you don’t, at least you can always Google ’em and then give ’em Hell, good luck and keep it up!

  36. KL says

    But you’re a blogger, not a real new source. Oh but if you know the guy who runs google’s spam team you must be legit, my bad.

  37. says

    This story points to so many failures of mainstream media that go far beyond not crediting your story, it’s just beyond sad. Not linking is a failure not only of transparency (as you suggest), but also of culture and technology.

    To not recognize the value to readers of linking to external sources — of becoming a reader’s go-to source for not only the story, but all the supporting links exploring that story — is to not recognize the world outside your window. Anyone responsible for running a website should know and insist on as much linking as possible.

    And as far as disappearing links go, that strikes me as a failure of technology (a feed importer, for example), that could easily be remedied by tossing whatever multi-million dollar infrastructure is presently in place, and replacing it with with a free copy of WordPress or any other open-source CMS.

    When you see this happening in real time like this, it’s difficult to not want to rip the whole industry apart and start over (which is happening anyway).

    And I’m not even angry. I’d just like to get on with the future, already. :)

  38. says

    Thanks for this, Danny. I agree it’s a textbook case and well documented. I spent 28 years in TV news before coming over to the force in 1998. I still work with mainstream media companies, so I’m painfully aware of all that you write about here. I have two comments. Firstly, the idea that TV news lifts everything from the morning paper is old news, and I don’t see it like I used to see it. Secondly, most journalists would rather die than admit the source for a story was some other form of media. The unwritten rule is that if you can find confirmation elsewhere, there’s no need to mention where you got the “idea.” Thankfully, the Web is changing this, and the currency of the link works both ways. Best wishes to you and thanks again.

  39. says


    Annoying? Yes. Wrong? Certainly, for all the reasons you cite. New? Hardly.

    I broke into the media business as a reporter for UPI, when it was the world’s second-largest wire service. We — at least, in our bureau — were pretty good about attribution, if only because we wanted to be able to blame someone else if the original story was wrong. (I have a long and entertaining story about this, but I’ll tell you over coffee in Seattle.)

    But we would routinely find our enterprise stories — ones that took serious reporting — picked up without credit by major metropolitan newspapers or TV stations. (No internet then.) The capper would come when our brass would ask us to pick up, with credit, a story in the NYTimes — a story that we ourselves had originated two weeks previous.

    This has been the life cycle of news stories since Ben Franklin: story in a small market outlet, picked up by a metropolitan paper, picked up by a national outlet, becomes media firestorm for two news cycles, then everyone forgets about it. The MSM eats its own, even other MSM. Gotta fill space, gotta fill time. Credit flows back downhill only in the rarest of circumstances.

    Sorry. Sucks. At least you have a blog where you can talk about it.

  40. says

    You bring up an excellent point, Danny, and one that Andrew Keen has often pointed out, too. From his excellent book (Cult of the Amateur) to his blog.

    And people have “ganked” the news over and over with false stories. But I would love to take the time to develop a whole site (maybe an entire copy of Search Engine Land – design wise) and called something similar – like Search Engine Landing – and then just post utterly false stuff.

    Use Scribd and post false court documents. Use YouTube and post made-up videos of police brutality. Use your imagination. Sort of an “Onion News” with no humor. Just fake stuff.

    And watch the news media eat it up. If the internet doesn’t disintegrate into a pile of electrons after that, I don’t know what will.

  41. wombat says

    A few months ago I wrote a story for, let’s say, “a wire service such as the AP.” It was about an obscure person who had had basically no previous media coverage. In the few weeks after my story, suddenly all sorts of places that covered the relevant niche did their own stories on the person – of course following the unwritten rule mentioned by the previous poster that there’s no need to mention where they got the idea.

    What is funny about this is that my first thought was “damn, I wish I had written the story for a website, at least there’d be a chance they’d link to my story.”

    The grass always looks greener, huh? But it seems to me you’re not being treated this way because you’re a blogger – you’re being treated by the mainstream media just like it treats the mainstream media. The reason it seems wrong is that the web has a different culture about attribution which is more generous usually but not always: many websites took photos from my story and re-used them without any credit to the source – which was the blog of the person who was the subject of that story. There’s plenty of stealing going around – it’s hardly just MSM stealing from bloggers.

  42. says

    Thanks for helping to even the playing field for bloggers – one publication at a time. It is rare to see major media outlets on the defensive adding citations to web based sources.

    Hopefully this will help smaller websites and bloggers increase their exposure by getting source links from Big Media.

  43. says

    Danny, I saw your story balloon on techmeme.

    Very interesting!

    As others have mentioned, you should watermark your screenshots. Also, fair use of Google’s map in a snapshot for commentary (which the arrow definitely is) means you can use their copyrighted image. On the other hand, I don’t think you can copyright your fair usage of Google’s copyright. That’s why you should watermark.

    Also, the thing for me with the ScribD account and PACER that no one else has caught is that the PACER system probably isn’t free — your buddy downloaded the document for you or you did with an account that costs money. So any media outlet that links to your ScribD account is accessing a file that they could get by trekking to Park City and paying for photo copies or by paying for a PACER account and paying for that.

    So this story has an overhead cost that those who link but don’t attribute aren’t sharing.

  44. Nick O'Neill says

    I’ve had this exact thing happen on numerous instances and I can’t tell you how frustrating it is (obviously you know because you’ve written this whole post). It frustrates me significantly. It makes me want to not link to mainstream publications when they do the exact same thing.

    I had someone take a breaking news article I wrote a few weeks back, share the article and they got over 50,000 visitors easily. The writer has no contact information posted anywhere on the web. I should have written a post like you did though. Will do that in the future!

  45. Sarah says

    Hi Danny,

    Dude, my bad. By the time that I’d started writing about the story, it was blowing up the internet. I sifted through a number of articles, but I didn’t come across Search Engine Land until after the story was already published (and even then, I wasn’t aware that you were the one who broke it). I did find the link to the case filing on scribd from another site, not yours.

    Thanks for bringing this to our attention–I’ve contacted my editor and we have changed the article so that Search Engine Land is attributed in the story. In the future, please feel free to send me or PC World an email if you have any issues.


  46. says

    Oh Danny… Yup, you have been “dissed”… But wait, it gets better!

    A common “News Marketing” trick is to create cross-agreements in-between media outlets. A newspaper has an agreement with one TV station for Weather, another for Sports, a talk-radio station for local news headlines, etc.

    Sometimes the money flows, sometimes it’s just cross promotion. But it’s always incestuous. Where EVERY story is referenced to the stories from the media outlets where cross-agreements are in place. And nobody outside of a national newspaper or a network get’s credit for any story… ever.

    It’s rampant in local markets. And since local reporters are now being told, trained, and edited in this regard when they make the larger regional or national media… They not only don’t care how they cite.. They don’t care to the point that they only cite if it’s to their advantage.

  47. says

    I feel for you. When a CNET reporter once called us a ‘Tip Sheet Site’, I realized, this was adversarial. (She actually said that in front of about 5 bloggers on the show floor at SES SJ in about 05.)


    You have one great fact: the law suit was filed and the general specifics of the suit. That gets you out of the first couple paragraphs. Everything else in the blog post is editorial in defense of Google.

    It wasn’t a news story – it was an OpEd blog piece.

  48. says

    computers programmers copy paste technology – it’s the new internet scial networks media news buzz get a good lawyer : )

  49. says

    Thanks for detailing some of the specific frustrations bloggers go through in terms of attribution. I know most of us are afraid to rock the boat or anger the sites and media outlets “above us” in the whole trickle-down credit system of today’s web, so complaints and finger-pointing episodes are few and far between. Hopefully the journalists and bloggers that read this article will actually start to consider the source as part of the story now instead of just something to be used internally and then thrown away when their article goes live.

  50. says

    Considering that mainstream media regurgitates story after story until it is drilled into our heads anyway, I get my news from the web, from bloggers and if I find a story interesting and want to know more about it, I follow links around and find out more.

    I 100% agree both with your frustration and you underlying point, they are always accusing bloggers of doing exactly what they did to you. I have personally found independent writers (even with their opinions) to have the most valid and up to date versions of the news, often telling me the news that mainstream media either never mentions or mentions only in passing. Like the whole Corexit thing going on in the gulf, haven’t seen anything about it on tv but there is plenty about it on the web.

    Anyway, I applaud you, thanks for speaking out and not just taking it.

  51. says

    Hey Danny,

    Just wanted to let you know that The Sydney Morning Herald made the appropriate changes and added the applicable Search Engine Land link.

    Sorry for the trouble! Again, thanks for noting that.

  52. says

    As is the case in many businesses, the people who do the legwork in journalism often not only go unacknowledged but are entirely and quite intentionally ignored. Forget fair compensation or a piece of the action that is their rightful due.

    While some third fourth fifth sixth seventh eighth ninth etc. party/corporation/plagiarist/thief eats the food off your plate. And when you steal something, you can’t afford the common decency of leaving a trail of scraps for the people or persons who are in actuality putting food in your mouth. No sense opening yourself up to that liability if you are not first required by law to do so, and you in fact know that someone has the evidence, resources, time and energy to in fact nail you.

    If a law falls in a forest of broken laws and ethics and no one hears it break, was it in fact actually broken? Apparently the answer is nah.

    As the press squeeze gets tighter and tighter I’m sure we’ll see more and more of this, “I drink your milk shake” behavior.

  53. Brasco says

    I’m happy to say that when our show hosts brought up the story today, we cited Search Engine Land.

    100% behind you on this abuse of journalistic integrity

  54. says

    I would like to point out that in the “We’ll Cite You, But Not Link To You” section, you cite Mashable but link to the Fox News Memphis URL. You may want to fix that… unless you are trying to be ironic.

  55. says

    Sarah, thanks for your comment and the change. Much appreciated.

    Brett, jeez, you really seem to have a thing these days that I’m all about just defending Google. First you kind of ripped on me for fact-checking Bartz:

    Now everything else in my original story was in defense of Google?

    OK, I’ll bite. Keep in mind that at the time I wrote the story, there was nothing but the lawsuit. Neither Google nor Rosenberg’s lawyer were talking (and I tried reaching them both). So what have I got? That a woman searched for walking instructions, followed them apparently to the letter, got hit and decided Google was to blame.

    I’m far from alone from finding that kind of crazy sounding. But it was an opinion piece in favor of Google? The first four paragraphs describe what happened, all factual. The next two show the route, point out there’s a warning — but also point out that on the BlackBerry, there might not be. Then I note that Bing, like Google also does the same route with the same warning. Google defense? Yeah, if you want to go with that. Me, I think it’s relevant to understand if Google was alone in being crazy routing her onto a highway or not. Apparently not.

    I also showed pictures of the road and asked whether there was a place for common sense on whether to continue down a road or not. That seems reasonable to ask.

    But then again, I also said the bad instructions by Google were “embarrassing,” that it makes its best guess in such situations which can be “laughable to annoying” and also said:

    “Here’s to Google improving its directions and perhaps using more common sense of its own, understanding whether a street is a busy highway and maybe simply not offering routes when it doubt, rather than guessing.”

    Me, I thought that was pretty balanced. And as a matter of fact, when I finally did get to talk with her lawyer today, he found the questions completely reasonable as well — and admitted that his client shares some of the blame. The full story on that is here:

    But hey, regardless of whether I think it was a news story or you think it was “I Love Google” opinion piece, the fact remains that the item broke this particular story to the world. Opinion piece or not, some credit would be nice — just as you’d like WebmasterWorld to be tipped when members express opinions about what they think is happening about something.

  56. logboy says

    I think it’s often the case that blogs are such an accessible format that creating, maintaining & owning a blog becomes a mission above & beyond the art of researching & reporting. many take from obvious or easy / well-known sites that remain obscure to their subsequent readership because they seem do well-served that they needn’t click through to reveal the chain or flow of a story’s origin. this is a two-way situation and it’s hard to tell who to blame most – reader or writer – but, ultimately, if information or knowledge is important then crediting at least the initial source for your article (better still the other “more complete” extensively-research articles on the same story) should benefit both your own writing and blog as well as the readerships knowledge.

  57. says

    Thank you Danny for this timely mini-expose of the meat packing quality press industry.

    Just over a month ago, the Italian newspaper association Fieg proposed a tax on internet connections to subsidize the press. This idea didn’t come out of the blue. In Europe the music industry already benefits from a privileged tax on almost all storage media – CDs, DVDs, USB sticks, hard drives – even if the end use has nothing to do with copyrighted audio/visual media. Legalized theft, as they say. In Italy the government has historically subsidized the press through general taxes. With new austerity measures in the works, the traditional press is looking for a more politically acceptable tax to help pay its way – and Internet connections are a juicy target.

    Now that we have clear proof as to how the quality press can, and do, rely on online media (sites, blogs etc) for original reporting, the clear absurdity of an Internet tax to help traditional media in their quest to distribute info sourced from the web should put an end to this initiative.

  58. says

    The story of the mainstream media:

    1) Once a respectable and honoured institution;
    2) Dumbs down to gain a bigger audience;
    3) Bitches when they get beaten at their own game by bloggers;
    4) Left with nothing unique, but still want to charge for it;
    5) Steal from bloggers in a last-ditch attempt to look cool.

    I think it’s time the media went back to what they once did best – truly original investigative journalism. That’s what we’d pay for, not “the best of Digg and reddit”.

  59. Richard Gurner says

    As the journalist who broke this story I can’t help but feel you were a little naive as to how it would grow.
    Mainstream media rip off stories all the time and the only way to get around that is by selling the stories to them before you upload the copy to your site.
    As part of any deal you could then insist that online versions of the story link to your website.
    It will be a hard sell (especially on the link) but at least you’d be financially rewarded for your work.

  60. says

    While it’s easy to blame the newspapers and ‘old media’, where a lot of these stories get picked up, especially outside of the US, is from freelance agencies selling them on as their own. I’d be shocked if the Mail one didn’t come from an agency somewhere in England which had picked up the original story, rewritten it then sold it in as their own lead.

    We get stuff all the time where agencies phone up trying to claim as their own stories we may have found ourselves online, or claiming exclusive UK distribution for stories which a quick Google search will reveal are already well established elsewhere.

    That doesn’t excuse the failure to attribute, but there will be many cases where the paper in question likely as not doesn’t even know there’s someone not being correctly credited for the tale.

  61. says

    Update from Holland;

    The largest newspapers and social news sites were reporting it, of course without any mention of the original source, i.e.; – – – –
    – and many more

    And almost all prominent Belgian sites as well (Flamish), althought they were a day behind 😉

  62. says

    Fascinating read. I actually saw this report on a Salt Lake local television’s website (of course, no attribution).

    As an independent writer/blogger/journalist myself, in the video games industry, I see this happen all the time. It actually becomes an outright war between sites at times, and some sites are notorious for not crediting the source. It all comes down to self-policing at a few social media outlets where they all meet together to share news and “break” stories.

    You think that, in a world of time stamps and technical logs, we’d have a little more rights as the independent fellow to say “Hey, I said that first, give me a little credit.” But no, comment #2 hits it right on the head.

  63. Nic Wirtz says

    I am sad that this has happened to you and am glad you have documented it in such a detailed way but given your experience are you really surprised? The idea of a domain name to document when this happened would need a full time team of double figures, it is standard practice and will only get worse as more people decide to broadcast their views.

    Small companies with little in the way of resources are not going to put up much of a fight against media behemoths and they’re counting on that. Large media companies are also extremely lazy, relying virtually entirely on AP or whichever news agency they use to provide copy.

    Once something is out on the net, it would be great if there was an “Original Source” that links back to the first post of the story but that relies on all media outlets signing up, or very good news aggregators.

    Your post points out a number of ways news companies avoid attributing the little guy, a post I made at continues the theme. Once something is in the public domain, news companies will pretend the original story didn’t exist and they “break” it days later by using public records and/or quotes – quotes are fantastic as they make stories more personable but also once they are broadcast somewhere, other companies will use them for their own devices.

    The problem with all this to combat the theft of stories, organisations go down the route of hammering home to their audience that their story is “Exclusive”. Which ends up devaluing the exclusive tag.

    As more ways to broadcast are created, depressingly I can only see the problem exacerbating. It doesn’t matter if it is a journalist, a blogger, whatever, it’s already standard practice in the journalism world so if anything bloggers can raise that standard.

    Watermarking and the Control C app that’s due out where you can track who has copy and pasted your work will be making a few people out there very concerned.

    As news agencies cut back more and more on journalistic staff and the ones that are left are forced to contribute every increasing quantities of copy, again I can only see copy theft rising. I wasn’t a journalist in the good old days but I’m fairly certain writing 10-15 articles a day wasn’t the norm then.

  64. Giff says

    I think this happens more than people think and it is worth pointing out the hypocrisy. I’ve had screenshots/photos taken without attribution and in one case had a big tv channel use an entire video for b-roll. Not only did they not ask permission or credit the company I was with at the time, but they cropped our logo out of the video. It is the hypocrisy that bugs me the most, because when the tables are turned media companies attack with lawyers.

  65. Marc Bloch says

    to prevent this problem in the future, just make all of your blog entries private.

    whore, attention.

  66. Anon says

    You are my hero. It drives me nuts to no end that supposedly reputable news sources repeat information and don’t credit. I’ve seen MISTAKES sweep across the net. This also happens in print, so no surprises really. It’s time force these lazy journalists to be honest. The journalism profession, which has taken a dive, should be restored. I consider this job as important as a doctor’s.

  67. says

    Bravo for you for exposing this. I like the way you reported it all in-depth. I don’t think the fight here is new vs. traditional media. It’s a simple matter of ethics and not doing what’s easy. As a journalist who has worked in broadcast and print I know firsthand how news organizations (particularly newspapers) have treated the idea of linking to other sources. It seems as though they underestimated you in this case. At some point it’s about common decency, nothing more. Where is that in all of this. TV stations have long combed newspapers for stories that are never attributed. The thinking there is you get your own sources and it becomes yours. I’m not saying this is right, it is just a long held tradition that absolutely needs to be challenged. People are always scoffing at Arianna Huffington for her belief in the link economy, but this is real. Your link is your currency online, and you were ripped off. Again, love the way you brought it to life.

    Angela Connor | @communitygirl

  68. says

    first, though I write often for pcworld (and find much of my other writing syndicated there from other IDG sites), I did not write the story you’re complaining about. but looking at it now, I see a very clear mention of search engine land and a link in graph #4 of sarah jacobsson’s story.

    I don’t know if that was missing from the original story and was added later (there’s no note to that effect), but the pub date on it is 7 am, 31 may – prior to your blog entry, danny. so I have to ask, why are you taking pcw to the woodshed and not offering an update noting this?

    at the very least, if sarah found your story and wrote her own version of it w/o attribution, then pcw realized its mistake and corrected it. why do
    CBS, the FT, and Gizmodo get the shoutout, but not pcw?

    I suspect in this case that because what you were reporting on is in the public record — not really an original story that no one else could have written w/o your efforts, certainly not investigative — other pubs felt less beholden to site your original. that’s just speculation on my part, of course.

    the mainstream media is now doing what blogs have done for years — piggyback on someone else’s reporting. but you fail to get at the reasons why this happened, and why pcw was cited first by other sources. it’s because of how Google News operates. I’ll bet the reason these other sources cited pcw or CNET is because GN happens to love those sources big time. they are always on the front page, regardless of who broke the story. and reporters/bloggers, working on a frantic schedule to put out stories, saw them and ran with it.

    I think your issue is with Google News, which I’ve been saying for a long time is seriously broken and needs to be fixed. the question you should be exploring here is not ‘why did those mean mainstream reporters steal my story and not credit me,’ it’s ‘why didn’t Google News credit my story as the original one and drive the traffic to me?’ that’s the far bigger question, I think, and the one a person who runs Search Engine Land is really in the best position to answer.



  69. says

    sorry, just saw sarah’s response above. so that answers one of my questions. still love to hear your take on Google News, cuz it drives me crazy.


  70. patricia says

    This kind of stuff happens with the blogs and digital media companies too. It’s unfortunate but it happens.

  71. says

    As a reader it is a pain to try and find the original source of stories on the web today. Very few sites provide original content or even links to the original content. A real pain. The legacy media is one of the worst in this regard. Hopefully they will get better as the move into the digital age. I have added you site as a bookmark, I keep trying to get rid of the sites that just puke back out other peoples stories…

  72. says

    > defense of google

    Right now, Google maps is under strong pressure and 3 fronts:

    o The issue with Google illegally WiFi sniffing in Europe with the Germans made major headlines. Google admitted to possible serial violations of German law.
    o The issues with street mapping in the UK and elsewhere in Europe.
    o Google sued over street view:
    o Also a back burner issue with the accuracy (lack thereof) of Google Maps since Google switched data providers from NAVTEQ to Tele Atlas.

    Look through the blogosphere, there are people all over that have been commenting on how bad Tele Atlas data is:

    Those are three issues that should be part of any story on Google Maps. All 3 bear strong influence on this case. (especially the legal issues)

    Instead, we get an OpEd piece where it is popular to hassle the frivolous law suit. I don’t really have an opinion about the case other than Google needs to improve the accuracy of Maps. Navteq data was so much better.

    I just remember when that lady sued mickyd’s because she was “burned with coffee”. Everyone from John Q to Leno love to slam her as a gold digger. It turned out the coffee maker may have had a broken thermostat and the manager had received complaints about it. (btw: she won the suite against a major corporate power).

    Who knows, in this case the woman may have had strong reason to believe you could walk where she did based on Google’s Map recommendation. Either way, I don’t think you can cover this story without talking about Google maps, accuracy, and the big issues Google Maps is currently facing. To not cover them is a gross oversight, or intentional.

  73. Glenn Fleishman says

    This happens to me pretty much every time I break a story in my Wi-Fi blog (which has been a while, but Wi-Fi used to be sexier). I’d write it up, and within a few hours to days, I’d see stories in mainstream media not referencing the original. I broke when Cometa was closing down by following up a tip and calling the company. Thousands of stories ran about it (because AT&T, IBM, and Intel were involved in the venture), and only a handful mentioned that they had gotten the story from me.

    When I wrote about a coffeeshop that shut down its Wi-Fi on weekends a few years ago, the Financial Times and NPR picked up the story — literally, called the same cafe, and I was the only lead — without crediting me.

    It’s just endemic. Reporters need to justify having original stories, and it’s not in their interest to alert editors of the source as long as they do original reporting and don’t simply quote the original story. That’s plagiarism, but you make a couple of calls and read a couple of source documents, and suddenly, it’s a new story.

  74. says

    Great piece. But I don’t think you own the copyright to the google map. Doubt if it meets the requirement of originality. Interesting legal question tho.

  75. says

    Bottom line is, traditional media often doesn’t think it needs to credit sources it doesn’t feel are truly ‘news media’. I see it happen all the time to bloggers and content creation sites that are ‘new’ media. But it’s not the only place they take copy – I can’t tell you how many times a newspaper has taken one of my press releases verbatim, slapped a byline on it and claimed copyright for the story. As a PR person, that just makes my job easier. But if I was blogging about it, I sure as heck would want the credit (and would spend as much time as you did making sure it happened.) Way to go!

  76. says

    Brett, I disagree that any time you write a story about Google Maps, you need to mention the WiFi sniffing, lawsuits over Street View photography or that Google has shifted over to NAVTEQ lest you be guilty of a gross oversight or intentionally working to defend Google.

    You mention things in an article that are relevant. In my article, I mentioned that instructions clearly weren’t providing decent walking directions as promised and cited two other examples of Google Maps giving really bad directions.

    In terms of the WiFi issue, we’ve covered that plenty, including:

    We’ll keep mentioning it as part of stories where it is relevant.

    In terms of Street View photography, Google has issues with that not just in Europe (which includes the UK) but all over the world. They’ve been sued in some places; they’ve been challenged on privacy grounds in others. They’ve also been supported in some cases (such as by the UK’s privacy authority). Covering Street View is more than pointing to one single article, since there’s so much upset about it.

    As for TeleAtlas, you’re confused. Google stopped using them in October in the US. We had a hunking huge analysis about it:

    They also stopped using them in Canada in April:

    If the shift to using its own data caused the bad directions, that might be relevant to add to the story. But since the accident happened in January 2009, before the data was changed, it doesn’t seem relevant.

  77. The Hedgehog From Hell says

    Heh, it started with the Daily Mail, did it? They once hotlinked to a picture I mocked up, without giving any credit or acknowledgement. It’s not like they didn’t know where it came from, since they were linking to where I had hosted it.

    It was the work of moments to change the picture to… something else. As detailed here:

  78. says

    Dan, because I saw Sarah’s comment on my phone late last night and wasn’t in a position to add an update then. That’s all. As people have told me of changes, I’ve been adding notes. I’ll get to it shortly.

    As I’ve said before, I know this is a story of public record. Some publications may feel like they don’t have to credit the source that broke the story at all, because of that. Some might honestly get confused over who broke it. As more time goes on, and as more and more publications write about it, that gets harder. It also gets silly to complain about. A month from now, do you expect anyone to write about this to say “first reported by….” I certainly wouldn’t.

    I’ll stress again that I’m not livid with anger or anything like that. I’ve been writing on the internet for nearly 15 years now. Nothing I’ve described above is new or unexpected to me. It was just a nice, clear example where publications could have given a shout-out but didn’t, and I though it made a nice illustration during a time when we have many vocal editors and publishers of mainstream publications playing the victim card against online journalists. Editors, and publishers, are important in all this. The journalists on the line often do want to attribute things, but you can have an old guard that doesn’t believe in it or finds it a waste of time.

    As for Google News, you’re right. I could have, and perhaps should have, done an entire thing on what a mess they were. I’d do a search, and I’d come up with a ton of little tiny stories way above mine, no attribution, no great info and from odd sounding places.

    But that’s actually the opposite of what you’re talking about. Right now, in a search for Lauren Rosenberg, it’s not the little stories that are top. It’s PC World, followed by the LA Times. Then I get Top Tech News, which is really the AP story, which isn’t supposed to happen because Google carries its own AP stories and should point at them. Then I get “Island Crisis,” which provides “Mauritius News” along with tech news. That’s one of Google’s top picks?

    If I shift to a search for just “Google Maps,” PC World is still there, along with a four paragraph story from Woman’s Day, then the Guardian.

    So it’s a real mixture of big and small that they pick, but I’d agree that what they pick doesn’t appear to be among the most authoritative or most cited stories. That’s definitely a contributing factor for anyone who really wants to cite an original source — though I have to say, I deal with that all the time when I’m looking for who to cite and yet I can still often find the right place. But I run my own publication — I don’t have an editor who might accuse me of wasting time.

    Anyway, I’d already spent enough time — more time than I’d planned — writing about the source attribution, so I didn’t get into the Google News stuff — which would also involve having a look at Yahoo News, and what was happening there. But look at this:

    It was a long look at Google News ranking issues that I did last year, and how it can be confusing. And this:

    Covers issues with surfacing the authoritative story, in cases when there are those, which has especially been a key issue for the AP. Of course, the AP could largely solve its particular issue if it actually published a single article and didn’t yank it down after 30 days. But as a wire service, it is in a complicated situation.

  79. Steven Ward says

    News stories are like children: at a certain point, they grow beyond you and take on a life of their own. The first layer of sites that picked up your story should certainly have cited you and linked back to you. But expecting the Associated Press to cite the source of every story *that involves a matter of public record* after it’s been reported by dozens or hundreds of other outlets is just silly. Yes, you got a nice little scoop that’s a big talker. Pat yourself on the back. But don’t expect every outlet or website who picks up the story to say “… as reported by the amazing Danny Sullivan, and kudos to him!”

    I recently broke a story that involved photos that were supplied to me, and only to me, by a third party. I deliberately didn’t watermark the images when I posted them online, but I did alter them in a subtle way so that I’d know when they were cribbed and used on other sites. Dozens of sites took the photos and used them without attribution. Was I annoyed? No. They weren’t my original photographs, and with a little work these sites could have eventually obtained their own copies. My ego is not so large that I need everyone who uses my ideas to credit them to me. A simple Google search will show I broke the story first, and that’s all that matters.

    Frankly, most readers don’t care who found the body in the woods, they just care that a body was found in the woods. Let your children go and take satisfaction in the fact you raised them well, even if they don’t always tell people how great their parents are.

  80. Andy Halpert says

    The mainstream outlets probably assumed you borrowed the story yourself since your site (“Search Engline Land!”) looks exactly like a poorly-designed spamblog that churns out robo-acquired material from other news sites. If you want to be respected, you have to look and act respectable.

  81. says

    I’ve seen spamblogs, Andy. We don’t look like one. Sorry you disagree.

    The mainstream press also disagrees, by the way. There are been plenty of cases where the site or individual editors have been cited by publications such as the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. We’ve been respectable enough for them.

  82. Christie Smythe says

    Hmmm….questionable ethics in not identifying a source of the screen shot, but I’m not entirely sure that you can claim copyright for modifying a Google map and making a permanent image of it. It is, after all, Google’s map and programming. Interesting question, though. In other news, welcome to how news gets reported. Back when I was a journalism student working for college papers, the AP and other “professional” news organizations ripped off our stories (using them as a template to do their own) all the time.

  83. says

    I see a lot of comments saying, “What’s the problem? It’s only a story!” and it kind of makes me sad. Apparently none of these people understand that a writer works hard on their pieces — whether fiction or journalism — and that, while we love to share, we also want credit where credit is due. A newspaper would freak out if its content was being used without being cited or linked to — I’ve seen it; I work for a newspaper — but many often care little about the blogs they get content from.

    Thanks, Danny, for standing up and saying something.

  84. Matthew Montgomery says

    I understand the frustration you must feel, but I take issue with the notion that you have some sort of exclusive right to information. While you may have broken the original story and in the process scooped major news media, that doesn’t give you some interminable right to be linked back to. What is important, however, is that those writing stories about this independently verify the claims you make and don’t just use you as their source. It would be very lazy journalism indeed were they to simply parrot your news.

    Simply, public information is public information, and it really doesn’t matter who uncovers it, who finds it, who stumbles across it when such a person don’t hold copyright to the information. This was never your information.

    Still, congratulations on breaking the story and uncovering the information yourself. There’s something to be said for that, and I don’t mean to belittle any work you may have done.

  85. says

    Matthew, I never said I had an exclusive right to the information. I’ve addressed that yes, this is public information, and there’s no particular reason people have to link. But it would be courteous, at the very least, and it’s something commonly done in the blogging world but not so much in the mainstream world.

    Also, it sounds like you’ve missed a key point. Many sources linked to the lawsuit that I uploaded — which implies they read the information I provided, rather than seek it themselves (and independently verify it was a real case). That is lazy journalism, and if they’re going to parrot a legal document I put out in the public domain, then attributing where it came from is even more important.

  86. Matthew Montgomery says


    I agree, there is a problem in linking to your source for the lawsuit, but as it’s in the public domain — as a document, and not as a result of your placing it there, there’s not much that can be done. I also agree that it’s lazy journalism to not independently verify the document, and, indeed, it can have very sincere consequences, particularly in the realm of document forgery.

    It seems an implicit claim you’re making, and I don’t think you’ve made it explicit. By making this post and following it so heavily, you’ve made it quite clear that you are concerned that people have not performed what you describe as a courtesy; thus, I hypothesize, perhaps wrongly, that you are concerned about something more than simple courtesy.


  87. says

    lols at Halpert for thinking that SELand looks like a SPAM blog. For what it’s worth Danny, I have really enjoyed reading your SPAM blog’s ORIGINAL content for quite some time. I hope you keep producing more SPAM.

    Alas, the amazing bit of ire that this post has caused is amusing.

  88. says

    I’m really glad you are complaining about copyright violations. Obama team was looking for suggestions on how to make the copyright law stronger. I told them for one, the Justice department could forget the Google Settlement and hold them liable, just as they would me if I copied someone else’s book, for profit (however that latter comes about.)
    As a freelance writer since the 50s, I’ve watched as the law becomes so convoluted that no one understands it and figures they’ll be able to do whatever they want and fight it in court later if someone finally finds out and sues. Now it took me many months to get HighBeam to take down an article I wrote for my profession. They used is as a freebie in a paid for collection of articles; when asked to take it down, they then offered it as a freebie if one signed up for the paid program. It was only after I threatened a lawsuit to both my professional organization and HighBeam that the thing disappeared from their site. I don’t know how much money they made off me, but they never paid me…yet.

  89. says

    Matthew, if I were that concerned about this issue, I could write a post like this every week. For me, this was a pretty clear cut example of what I and others who blog encounter on a routine basis. It was worth illustrating. Perhaps it will change some attitudes. But I’m not losing sleep over it.

    As for “following” this post so heavily, people are leaving comments, which is an expression of their interest. Why on earth wouldn’t I try to answer their questions or further clarify my thinking? That’s the point of accepting comments.

  90. Philip says

    Danny, it looks like Atlantic Wire has since added a “hat tip” also. Slowly but surely you’re being given the credit you deserve.

  91. says

    A sad commentary on journalism today. I started to write that these organizations must have a separate set of rules for online reporting, but I’m not so sure they haven’t sunk this far in print as well. We write extensively about finding primary sources and the “real” source of a story, but even our seminal blog post on this fairly well presumed that “trustworthy” news organizations would not behave in this manner.

  92. Mel says

    I understand your frustration, and correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t you neglect to state your source in your original article? I see where you mentioned him in this one, but I didn’t see where you listed your source in the original article. No one should rip anyone off and every writer should always give credit to links and pictures they use. But unless I’m missing something, you are complaining about something you also did.

  93. says

    Mel, my source was mentioned in the second paragraph of my original article, complete with a link to his ResourceShelf site — he didn’t actually have an article about the case, but that, I figured people could at least learn more about him and his site.

  94. says

    I am still keeping a close eye on this story and I think it is *really* encouraging how many replies you have received from people who HAVE now gone back and linked to you. Shame you had to make this big fuss to get it done but its wicked that it worked out so well. I bet this whole ordeal worked out more in your favor than if they had just linked to you in the first place eh? Well done, very well done.

  95. says

    Danny 2 Danny: atomic typo in story above:

    ATOMIC TYPO ALERT: Danny, there is a small typo still on your site re the above story: Spellcheck did not catch it because you wrote ”WHEN” when you meant to type ”WENT”, and it still reads: “Having said that, about an hour after this story ”WHEN” live, Gizmodo…….”

    Veteran copy editors call that an ”atomic typo”, like unclear for nuclear, or sedan for Sudan or Gov. Christ for Gov. Crist…….so FIX when time allows. — Danny proofreader in Taiwan, far from the madding and maddening crowds….

  96. says

    Danny 2 Danny, 2: Danny, after reading this article last night in Taiwan i came up the term “You’ve been DannySullivan’d” to mean what happens when a writer has his or her “article” factchecked and vetted and papertrailed by someone like you following your MO above to ascertain the exact attributions and credit lines. “You’ve been Romesko’d” has already made it into our common vocabulary, when a person’s article or blog gets linked at Jim Romenesko’s site, and now “You’ve been DannySullivan’d” is poised to catch on to, thanks to you! Good post, good gumshoe detective work.

  97. says

    I don’t know whether my blog is considered Mainstream Media or not, but just letting you know this isn’t the first time has done this sort of thing.

    An entry about Saturn I made on April 20th, 2009:

    Daily Mail’s article on April 21st, 2009:

    The images are public domain, so there’s no theft there – but the selection of photos (gathered from thousands of raw Cassini images), the ordering of the images, much of the caption editing and cropping of the images all came directly from my blog entry – and not so much as a hat tip from Daily Mail.

  98. says

    Alan, that is astonishing. Did you or complain to Daily Mail? What they did is indefensible, and, in my strong opinion, a clear violation of U.S. copyright laws, because of the elements you noted.

  99. says

    Franky, thanks, I changed that! Of course, three years after a story breaks, I’m personally much less worried about whether the originating source is linked to or not. But Google Earth did point over to Google Blogoscoped, so I should have spotted that.

    Mark, I sent an email to them on Tuesday. I just sent another one. We’ll see if the respond.

  100. says

    Danny, great post, glad you brought this out.

    Beyond the failure to cite which is unforgiveable, as a matter of usability, I’ve noticed more and more mainstream media websites are NOT linking to anything.

    Even a story about a website in the WSJ often doesn’t link to the site. It’s insane, and apparently, some journalists believe it’s best for the audience:

    “Links are wonderful conveniences, as we all know (from clicking on them compulsively day in and day out). But they’re also distractions.”

    “The link is, in a way, a technologically advanced form of a footnote. It’s also, distraction-wise, a more violent form of a footnote.”

  101. says

    Danny, it will never stop. Things become more interesting/annoying when someone scores an exclusive interview with a celebrity and then finds MSM using quotes (often more than 50%) and publishing everything under copyright. In the UK it’s a major game and just like in Germany journalists have no obligation to disclose sources (but bloggers should).

    Where do you draw the line though? I only hope Murdoch and Co. will soon hide behind their paywall:

  102. says

    Time has updated their version of the article to include a link to SEL from the second paragraph. I don’t know when the change was made, since the cached copy from 6:08 GMT today has the link as well. It’s clearly something they added on, though: the current version still ends with an “update” pointing out that the walking directions are in beta, “as PC World points out.” We already know that PC World points it out because they saw that you point it out.

  103. says

    Dear Danny:

    We’ve all been there. When I pitched a story a long time ago to the L.A. Times, a week later the story came out with another byline and only a slightly different title.

    Recently, a story Wireless and Mobile News broke, was talked about on a forum. Some forum member received thousands of attributions, we received nothing.

    Another time, I spent a lot of time in Photoshop, putting this message on a T-Mobile Cameo wireless photo frame “Tasteless Message Goes Here.” Several competitors ran similar stories with our “Tasteless Message.”

    We’ve also had websites steal hundreds of articles verbatim with photos, the only thing they changed were the bylines.

    One time, I searched down the original Korean news release for a cell phone maker, major news sources and bloggers had taken the news from a translation that was blatantly wrong. Somehow from Korean to Russian to English it lost something in the translation, the truth.

    Thanks for showing the world what we blojournalists deal with every day.

  104. says

    I thought it was interesting seeing how many people changed their stories once they realised they were getting some bad press, and then linked back to you. They could have done it the first time and avoided that, but there you go!

  105. says

    Well done Danny, I love this. Make them eat a little humble pie and maybe they will stop the finger pointing so much and realise that the way forward is the affiliate and work together with news like this.

    Its a similar story with the music industry, these old, entrenched, dinosaur industries are not adapting to the global changes. They dont know what to do so they try and fight it to protect the huge profits they rake in. What they dont realise is they cant win, they will just have to bite the bullet, take a drop in pay possibly and work with new technologies and trends. They can still make a lot of money and survive well! Its all about greed man…the American way!

  106. Chris says

    The Daily Mail and the Sun have never let the truth stand in the way of a good story, specially if they can get Polish imigrant lesbian single mothers out to break Britain into the story as well; therefore doesn’t surprise me at all that they avoid including any attribution as to the source of their stories.

  107. crucialwax says

    While I agree with most of this article, there is one case where you shouldn’t expect a link. If a news organization hears a rumour of a story, and then proceeds to research it, finding the original source documents first, and then proceeds to write their own original content covering the story, you shouldn’t expect a link. I don’t think being first grants anyone some kind of right to be linked or referenced in every article from then on. You credit your sources, not the person who breaks the story. When your source has a source, you should be digging backwards anyway. It’s not very good journalism if you don’t.

  108. Diane Bjorling aka blogneta says

    It was through a twitter follower that I first heard about what has happened to you ( @ReStream) The reason that they had let me know about this was as a result of an amp that I did on The story(amp) I did guessed it “If Google told you to jump off a cliff would you?” I feel very bad about this as I do not now or ever believe in stealing anything.
    I offer my own apologies for unwittingly doing something that makes me feel kind of ill as I also believe in ethics and credibility.

    I have posted a comment on that story so that others can read and come here to hear what you have to say.

    I debated whether to leave it up or delete it. I decided that by leaving it up that your story would get more attention, but with the proper credit due.

    I hope this is ok with you, please let me know if it isnt and I will delete the amp if you ask.

    The amp in question is

    It is terrible when others create a problem for so many is just plain disgusting!

    Thanks for your time

    Best regards,

    Diane Bjorling

  109. says

    the copyright of the google map screenshot will, i guess, remain with google, however that hardly qualifies as a excuse for the media site to copy it from your site. Am sure search engine land has proof, from the logs and stats, that the image was copied from the dailymail office. I don’t know the legal aspect of it, but how can someone download something, whatever it may be, from a site if the site owner is not ok with it.

    am really impressed with the attitude of the financial post, if a mistake has been done, just accept and apologize and it will be, in most cases, fine :) same goes to PC world and cbs and others.

    this also makes me think that how many more stories on their sites are credit less… since not everyone goes through all this to get the credit links placed.

  110. says

    Danny, sorry I didn’t link directly to you initially. I assumed, wrongly, that the newspaper was the originating source. I’ve edited my blog post to link to you and credit you with breaking the story.

  111. Anon Smith says

    Without going in to details… I have watched well known members of the media intentionally sidestep giving credit. I have had my own work used when the only compensation was credit only to have them apologize after the fact but STILL not give credit. They are what they are and those who steal copy, ideas, images, etc. know who they are too. Good for you getting a little credit where credit was due.

  112. says

    The proliferation of copyright violation in the real estate industry is truly sad.

    I own about 100 copyrights to unique graphic arts maps which are cut and pasted and used on their web sites by real estate competitors. It’s a constant battle to keep my content off their web sites and blogs.

    I’ve successfully collected damages from about 25 of them over the past 5 years and continue to monitor the use of my images. I don’t bother with text content because of time constraints, but I do protect my unique map images. Of course, there is no attribution nor link credits.

    Lenn Harley

  113. Barnegat Blummis says

    I think you’re a whiner. You steal from Google Maps and put an arrow on the image and then think you’ve got a copyright on it???? What a moron.

  114. says

    Barnegat Blummis: No, the moron would be the guy who thinks Danny was saying that he had any copyright on an image that he simply used to prove they had taken his story without attribution. Oh, that’s you, surprise!!

  115. says

    Think about it. If the papers linked back every story they pick up, there would be nothing but links and credits in the paper and on their site.
    The fact is you put the story, and the verification details, into the public domain so no one has to credit anyone. It was out there.
    Forget any thoughts of courtesy – in the real world, it is not done if it is not necessary. They ask us all to pay our taxes in instalments but few do – because it is not necessary. Human nature; pure and simple.
    However, if you had sent it directly to the news desks a day or two before posting it online, you would have got your requested credits – and a few cheques too. Life is very simple – if you just plan it.

  116. says

    I’m going to disagree with Iain from a philosophical perspective.
    1) Syndicated content is always stated as such (citing source)
    2) Newspapers need to differentiate themselves by elevating themselves above hearsay. If better quality original content is found on a blog than a newspaper, the distinction between blogger and journalist becomes even more murky. Pretty soon, anyone with a blog will be printing their own press passes.
    3) Verbatim from the Society of Professional Journalists: a. “Identify sources whenever feasible” which could easily have been done. b) “Never plagiarize”

    In the real world, Iain may be right but if that is the case, why buy newspapers at all?

  117. says

    Years ago when a newscaster was interviewed, you would have been referred to as an “unnamed source”, today you are referred to as “the geek in living in his mother’s basement”. The mainstream media made their bread and butter for decades (and still does) off people who don’t have a loud enough public voice. I have also noticed the radio and television people who complain the most about bloggers are over the age of 40. Being north of 40 myself, I have to shake my head when I hear this kind of nonsense. All they are doing is trying to protect their spot so to speak.

  118. Barnegat Blummis says

    I quoted someones quote about quoting in a quotidian way and failed to attribute my quota, quoth I. Yea, verily, ’tis metacognition gone starkers, n’est-ce pas?

  119. says

    I am going through the same thing. I broke a story and got some exclusive image of a tweet that was sent in the story and later deleted and thank God I was smart enough to brand my logo on it. The more established entertainment blogs all grabbed the image and none of them gave me credit! some linked to the image itself and others just wrote my website name and others just slapped it on with no credit at all! I think it is despicable seeing as I took the time to research the story, verified the information and got the evidence to back it up. The more established blogs are now being credited for the story!!!
    I am so mad and frustrated cos this is not the first time but this is the largest story (FYI it’s a story on David Lachappelle confronting Rihanna on Twitter over stealing his imagery for her video)
    I am going to tweet this story so these unscrupulous fools hopefully get some shame in them and do the right thing! (excuse any spelling errors cos I’m livid as I type this)

  120. Neomi Picot says

    An fascinating discussion is price comment. I feel that you need to write more on this matter, it won’t be a taboo subject but generally persons are not enough to speak on such topics. To the next. Cheers

  121. Danny Bloom says

    Suzi Parker at PoliticsDaily just went through this same exact meshugan thing. google her name and the Sarah Palin trademark story. she scooped it, but it got picked up by the world, mostly without credit, and often with wrong incorrect credit. mostly fixed now, but she had to go through the loops just as Danny did……

  122. Danny Bloom says

    here is the whole megillah:

    Breaking the Sarah Palin Trademark Story: A Lesson in Journalism Ethics

    Suzi Parker

    One night at 2 a.m. I was reading a story by Matt Lewis about Herman
    Cain, a possible 2012 presidential candidate from Georgia. Pursuing
    the Cain story further, I discovered that he had trademarked the
    phrase “The Hermanator Experience.”

    Trademark? Hmm. I wondered if Sarah Palin had trademarked something
    with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. It seemed like something
    she would do. A quick search and voila! Indeed, her longtime family
    attorney, Thomas Van Flein, had filed two applications with the office
    for the names Sarah Palin and Bristol Palin.
    But with that scoop about Palin’s branding, a question about
    journalism ethics and civility in the 21st century arose. In the
    Internet age, does the old journalism rule of giving credit to a
    breaking story’s original source still apply?

    In this zip-zip era of blogs, it’s easy to lose track of which outlet
    breaks a story first, especially as it becomes viral through social
    media. The Palin story was picked up by many websites, including
    Politico, The Atlantic Wire, Vanity Fair, Talking Points Memo and
    Mediaite. Those sites linked to the original story and gave Politics
    Daily credit.

    Then something odd happened. Vanity Fair began getting credit for the
    story. It was as if reporters weren’t even reading the Vanity Fair
    piece — and noting its reference to the original source — but just
    copying and pasting the link into their stories. To confront or not to
    confront? That was the question.

    In journalism, professional courtesy has been a long-standing
    tradition, and it still pays for reporters to check the accuracy of
    sources, whether they’re writing for a newspaper or a blog. In other
    words, search for the original source. Not to so do isn’t exactly
    unethical, but it is lazy and sloppy at best.

    In 2008, Jeff Jarvis wrote on his “Buzz Machine” blog: “I believe it
    is vital that we as an industry find ways to point to and give credit
    to original reporting. That is how original journalism will be
    supported, in the end: by monetizing the audience that comes to it,
    whether through advertising or contributions.”

    He also created a golden rule: “Link unto others’ good stuff as you
    would have them link unto your good stuff.”

    Thankfully, ethics still exist among some reporters. When I e-mailed a
    Salon reporter, he immediately apologized and said he would link to
    Politics Daily. He did so. The same thing happened when I e-mailed a
    reporter at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. When a reporter with the
    New York Daily News gave another AOL entity credit instead of Politics
    Daily, I sent her a nice note explaining that the two were separate
    sites. She apologized and changed it within five minutes.

    But not everyone was so eager to please.

    The Arkansas Times blog didn’t cite Politics Daily — or any site, for
    that matter — in the body of the post. The report did have a link to
    Talking Points Memo. When I questioned the editor, Max Brantley, he
    replied, “I linked to where I read it.”

    Easy enough mistake, but I pressed for attribution, explaining that
    Politics Daily broke the story. He answered, “I see that now, as will
    anyone who opens the link. I rarely dig into the chain of sources on
    blog links, particularly when I use so little of the content.”

    He finally gave Politics Daily credit for the story but refused to
    link to the original source.

    Journalism professors say this is a no-no.

    “I think a media outlet is absolutely duty bound to link to stuff that
    has already been reported elsewhere,” says Mike Lyons, a former
    reporter for the Associated Press and now an assistant professor of
    journalism at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. “We would
    have expected them to do that in the ‘old media world,’ by giving
    credit where credit was due and attributing the original report. Why
    would that change?”

    Reuters did not do so. Its reporter wrote a lengthy story but never
    credited Politics Daily as the first outlet to report the Palin
    trademark applications. The Reuters story spread quickly and landed in
    many print publications across the world. Reuters did add new
    information to the story, reporting that Palin now has a new attorney
    handling the trademark issue. (Van Flein now works for U.S. Rep. Paul
    Gosar, a Republican from Arizona with strong tea party ties.) The
    Reuters reporter didn’t reply to my e-mail.

    “Even contemporary journalism ethics would require that an outlet
    credit another organization for a story if it is first reported
    there,” says Richard J. Goedkoop, professor of communication at
    LaSalle University. “To do otherwise might be considered plagiarism,
    or at the least, unprofessional.”

    And now to the Associated Press. The AP always requires a citation
    from other publications that quote a story by the wire service. The
    cited reference cannot be more than a paragraph or so of AP’s original
    story and the wire service is a stickler for demanding credit.

    But when AP reported the trademark story, no credit was given. I
    e-mailed the Alaska bureau chief and explained the situation. He
    agreed that Politics Daily should have been cited and said he would
    correct it in an updated version of the story.

    He made the change, but it was the last sentence in the story. Later,
    a small victory did arrive from Traci Carl, the AP’s West Editor,
    wrote in an e-mail, “You are right. The Associated Press should have
    give you credit for breaking the Palin trademark story, and we should
    have put it higher in the story. We will do so in the future.”

    The Internet is a big, big place and I’m beginning to feel a bit like
    Sisyphus. Click click click. I love the Internet, but every now and
    then I miss the thud of a rolled-up newspaper landing on my doorstep.
    It was firm and final and certainly unsearchable. What we called
    “tomorrow’s kitty litter box liner” was a curse, but maybe it was a
    blessing, too.

  123. says

    I just read it. That’s a whole lot of work when you are running a blog by yourself. I did email the popular blogs that did this and never got a response from either.
    I’m just glad I had the good sense to plaster my logo all over the image but it irks me that they get to have all the traffic and earnings. For the sake of my health I’ve decided to let it go.
    Hopefully people will want to go to the source

  124. says

    i been follow you for years reading your articles and search engine news , Danny Sullivan you are Widely considered a leading “search engine guru, for me is not about exclusive right to the information it’s all about credit you for writing it’s not easy to do so, not when it’s come to social media, and old media that it’s all about the new social media, writing takes time and understanding of facts and having the ability to predict future changes in technology search, news, and change made by The Mainstream media, if you can see that like you do then you get the credit keep up with the excellent writing and pinpoint accuracy.
    Emil Cohen