Watching Another News Story Get “Stolen” Without Attribution

Occasionally, you can watch how a story you’ve broken spreads to other news outlets. Disappointingly, that can mean watching it spread without your originating story getting the credit. My story last week of the “Spreading Romney” site is a great/sad example of this.

Last week, I wrote a story at Search Engine Land about a new site that rose to the top results on Google and Bing for a search on “romney.” You can read the story yourself here: Now, Mitt Romney Has A Santorum-Like Bing & Google Problem.

Before I wrote that story, there were virtually no news articles for a search on “spreading romney.” I know, because I’d done that search to figure out how the site came to be.

From Being Cited (Thank You!)

It’s a different story today. There’s plenty of coverage out there, and it’s likely to grow. Some places saw my story and gave it credit. Thank you! These include:

To Being Lost

Other outlets saw one of the places that cited my original story and rather than citing me instead cited the secondary source.

It’s a tough call here. If you found something from a particular source, it’s nice to give them a “via” or “hat tip” link. But if you don’t cite the originating source, that can cause it to get lost.

Consider how Comedy Central wrote about it. It cites The Atlantic, rather than my piece. I miss out on some of those potential readers. Worse, it’ll really break my heart if this type of thing happens again:

That was Stephen Colbert talking about the Google accuses Bing of copying it story that I broke last year. Yeah, that made Comedy Central. See that arrow? That’s my name even appearing during the show. My kids were thrilled. But see the story? From PC World, not the original from Search Engine Land.

At least PC World cited the original. But when only the secondary source gets cited — as happens with New York Magazine’s article giving the credit to the Daily Beast — the original gets lost.

To Not Getting Mentioned At All

Still, credit to Comedy Central and New York Magazine for providing some attribution about how they came across this news item. Over at Time, the magazine apparently just discovered the story out of the blue. The Time story makes no mention about why or how it suddenly stumbled onto the news.

Over at Daily Kos, it links to what The Raw Story wrote, which in turn has a hat tip to the Boise Weekly, with a story here. Seriously? The Boise Weekly was its source?

Turns out, The Boise Weekly got it from me, almost certainly. I can tell, because they have my screenshot. No link to my story. No mention that the screenshot, complete with the arrow pointing out the key listing, was taken without permission. Just taken.

Well, it’s not like The Boise Weekly isn’t in bad company. After all, the Daily Mail did a similar thing to me in 2010, and the screenshot they took remains up despite me contacting them at least twice. Oh, and no attribution, either.

Giving credit is extra work. It’s not always easy to know who to credit. But it’s the right thing to do, and should be done.

Postscript (8am PT): Still no word back from the Boise Weekly on providing any credit. I’d also contacted the Raw Story, which linked to them, saying:

On your story here:

You credit the Boise Weekly. Believe me, I appreciate you trying to credit another publication. Many don’t. The problem is, the Boise Weekly didn’t credit my story that they summarized — not to mention stole the screenshot from.

I’d love if you could cite my original story in addition to or rather than those folks. You’ll find it here:

Note again the screenshot in both, how they both say “Costa Mesa” as the location. That’s in Southern California, where I am, not in Idaho 🙂

Publisher Roxanne Cooper came back with this thoughtful reply:

I seriously doubt you invented the meme at search engineland. And If so, you need to contact Boise Weekly.

My response back:

I didn’t invent the meme. The meme was invented Jack Shepler, who I cited in my story. To date, I’m the only news outlet that’s spoken to him, that I know of.

He created it back in January in hopes of ranking on Google. But no news outlet reported him actually getting there until I did, last week.

That’s the news story that you’re reporting off the Boise Weekly, that in turn was picking it up off of my story – complete with my illustration.

It’s pretty obvious if you’d taken the time to look. Clearly you didn’t.

I’ve been in contact with Boise Weekly already, but I thought I’d also contact Raw Story directly, given that since you do H/T links, you seem to want to provide credit where credit is due. If you’re happy crediting a story that took someone else’s illustration, I guess that’s disappointing.

I’m not getting my hopes up the Raw Story will provide any credit, which in the grand scheme of things means little. The attitude about credit is far more important.

Postscript 2 (9am PT): Boise Weekly wrote to say:

First: I apologize. The image we published most certainly should not have been posted without credit and permission and I’ve removed the image from our website.

However, this story first came up on our radar after NY Mag wrote about it and a quick Google search showed it had been reported widely:

While I like to believe and read Boise Weekly my guess is their reporters stumbled across the story the same way ours did.

They’ve since dropped the screenshot and left the story without any attribution. The New York Magazine story, as I explained, linked to the Daily Beast with attribution. The Daily Beast linked to my story.