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Blog Herald’s WebProNews Expose

Duncan at Blog Herald has written an interesting piece pointing to a variety of pieces that Jason Lee Miller from WebProNews has written that allegedly fail to give attribution to original sources of information. Some of the pieces that Duncan compares show Jason using direct quotes from other sources without a link-back or even a mention of source which is a pretty big no no.

I have to say that WebProNews has been pretty good to me over the past few months since I started allowing them to use some of my content on their blog. They have responded to my suggestions and send reasonable traffic my way as a result.

However they are a professional site and have a reputation to uphold – as a result their authors should be writing with professional practices – especially staff writers like Jason who presumably are on the payroll. I’ll be interested to see what response Duncan’s piece gets when the rest of the world come back to work from their weekend in the next few hours.

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Comments

  1. That’s very surprising beacuse WebProNews is normally a good outfit – very well regarded. Hope it’s just an innocent mistake.

    Good to see it highlighted though – as it doesn’t matter how big and popular you are – you do something like this and you will be caught out and shamed.

  2. This exact same journalist ran a story on the Google Adwords URL Hijacking that happened last May, which I originally broke. When the WPN story came out, I wrote them requesting attribution, which they never did, they never even responded to my email.

    Very frustrating.

  3. duncan says:

    SEO DotComicide
    doesn’t suprise me in the least, I was limited for time so I went back to the beginning of the month, I can only say trust me when I smell a rat because I know its been going on a lot longer than this. Don’t sue Darren over the comment though, sue me: PO Box 689 Bunbury 6231 Australia :-)

  4. I found the need to rail on me, to understate it, surprising. That claims were unfounded and exaggerated, I found even more surprising. This whole thing seems not to be so much about attribution, but the method by which sources are cited—which is splitting hairs for unknown motives (maybe traffic?).

    There are various methods for citations, many of which are covered under Fair Use, and the methods I chose were similar to many major news sources like CNN and CNet. A live link is not required, just enough information to let readers know where you got the information. In fact, Fair Use goes to greater lengths to protect unpublished works, more than published works—saying again and again that small blocks of content can be borrowed from published works for commentary, criticism, parody, et cetera.

    First and foremost, WebProNews is not a blog. The writers here are not bloggers. We are industry reporters relaying information that we find—and quite often this information comes from bloggers, rumor mills, emails, press releases, major news organizations. In short, we have many sources, and if a story is similar in content to someone else’s story, often it is coincidental. This is a concept known as parallel development. If 6 bloggers are talking about the same topic and all linking to the same original source, it is not my responsibility to cite all six bloggers. The original source should suffice.

    Maybe we can question Mr. Riley about his 100 blogs in 100 days feature. Interestingly enough, Jennifer Garret (http://www.angelfire.com/grrl/jen_garrett/2005_08_01_archivednews.html) , at nearly the same time launched similar coverage entitled, wait for it, 100 blogs in 100 days. Is she an idea thief too? Just because there is simultaneous coverage of a topic, it doesn’t mean that everybody is stealing from the great and powerful Riley.

    When NBC, ABC, and CBS run the same story, are they plagiarizing each other? Do you ever hear exactly who all of their sources are? Yet, they tell the story “as if it is their own.” No one has exclusive rights to factual, publicly available information. Further, I’ve seen several examples you might chalk up to parallel development where I’ve broken a story, or expressed an opinion, or developed a clever headline, only to find an article very similar to my own within the next day or two. Did I get bent out of shape about it? No, it comes with job. There are more important things to worry about.

    But if I have improperly attributed, it was a hasty accident. I have no wish to be a thief, only an interesting writer providing interesting information for our readership. Improper attribution benefits me in no way and I try to at least cite the original source, if not all the supplemental sources. Let me reiterate: reporting on what people are talking about is not idea theft. It is reporting, plain and simple.

    Another interesting correlation: a short time ago, I criticized Mr. Riley’s opinion in this article on the state of the blogosphere (http://www.webpronews.com/news/ebusinessnews/wpn-45-20050826BlogBuzzCanBeMisleading.html). Isn’t interesting that a short time after I disagree with him in a widely read article, I am broadsided with several, perhaps libelous, accusations? Just pulling that up for thought.

    We, at WebProNews, do attribute. We do not, as a rule, always use live links (though often we do). This is not wrong in any way. Many mainstream news sites attribute without live links. The lack of live linking is not tantamount to plagiarism in any way. Follow these examples of news sources not using live links.

    http://www.cnn.com/2005/TECH/internet/09/12/techtest.googlebook.ap/index.html
    http://www.cnn.com/2005/TECH/09/09/spark.gizmondo/index.html
    http://www.cnn.com/2005/TECH/internet/09/08/katrina.data.ap/index.html

    http://news.com.com/iPhone+next+on+Apples+mobile-music+list/2100-1039_3-5860427.html?tag=st_lh
    http://news.com.com/A+journalist+and+blogger+tries+teaching/2100-1025_3-5859612.html?tag=st_lh
    http://news.com.com/eBay+to+buy+Skype+for+2.6+billion+in+cash%2C+stock/2100-1030_3-5860055.html?tag=st_lh

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9311134/
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9307764/
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/930780

    The examples cited by Mr. Riley do not illustrate instances of quotes that are not attributed.

    The story about the secretaries in Australia being fired over an email skirmish where Mr. Riley accuses me of “quote theft,” contains a quote that, when a Google search is done, returns over 100 sites printing the exact same quote. I borrowed the quote, a small portion of previously published material, and cited, although not in a way (live links I suppose) that Mr. Riley would like apparently, the original source News.com.au.

    The “Case 3: weird attribution,” is another example of citing a source in a method Mr. Riley apparently takes issue with. But, I did cite Search Engine Journal, as well as his site. So I don’t see the point. It looks like he’s grasping at straws.

    “Case 4: different takes, same mistake,” where he admits he has a weak case, is another example of parallel development where he somehow think all news is Mr. Riley’s news and therefore everybody else who reports on it is a thief. Well, note the first paragraph of that story and you’ll find I cite Blogger Buzz as my source. This information came straight from there and no where near Riley’s site.

    Let me ask this question, is reporting on a product from a major company with their own website about the topic somehow “idea theft,” as Mr. Riley continues to call it? How is it then, that my story about USB keys, where I link to the original sources an example of that? True, I didn’t invent USB keys. I’m not an engineer. Guess he got me.

    Geek Discovers Girls: widely reported across the net all citing the same source I did, Shanghai Daily. Do I read Chinese? No. But this seemed to be the original source.

    As for the assertion regarding a contributing writer (thief, again) “built an entire site republishing such articles, and even ‘contributes’ to WebProNews. Please bear in mind that when you run a site like ours and publishes submitted articles, we maintain that any content submitted from outside is the sole responsibility of the submitting author. Though we do take steps to insure they are legitimate, sometimes it is a similar scenario to the “chicken and egg” debate. If we find any author to be unreliable in this way, they are not allowed back into WebProNews for publication.

    Mr. Riley’s accusations seem mean-spirited, unfounded, publicity-houndish, mountains from molehills in nature, unsupportable, easily contradicted, not rooted in logic, and seem to convey the message that the world of news is his exclusive property. But here’s some news for you, it’s not.

    I hope this clears things up.

    Sincerely,

    Jason Lee Miller, A Thief If You Say So

  5. Anthony says:

    Great response Jason.

  6. Luna says:

    As a former newspaper reporter, I have to agree with Jason. There are thousands of reporters and bloggers all talking about the same news/information. There’s just no way of doing that without having the same opinion or covering the story in a way similar to another reporter. There’s a big difference in plagiarism and covering the same topic. Keep your chin up Jason, you have as many fans out there as whiny folks nitpicking. I enjoy reading your material and will continue to do so.

  7. Andy Merrett says:

    Well, I know who I agree with, and he’s not commented here yet.

    And as for

    Good to see it highlighted though – as it doesn’t matter how big and popular you are – you do something like this and you will be caught out and shamed.

    I think the same should hold true for false accusers.

  8. Andy Merrett says:

    Oops he has commented here. :(

    OK I agree with Jason.

  9. Andy – D’oh ;-)

    As a freelance journalist myself and having worked and seen it all, what Jason says is essentially right. A 1000 journalists (and bloggers) all doing the same story are bound to be similar and there’s a fine line between normal reporting and plagiarizing – although I’ve seen many times a lazy journalist doing a cut and past job from 3 articles to turn in an assignment.

    Duncan – another person to add to your list of “100 sacred cows of blogging slammed or similar” – http://www.blogherald.com/2005/09/07/how-not-to-show-appreciation-to-those-who-link/ ;-)

    Jason – how about including me as a contributor in WPN … I can write about Internert Home Business – I think you’re really lacking in that department :-) :-)

  10. duncan says:

    Andy, Martin, I accept the argument that when you’ve got 100 reporters doing the same story you’ve got crossover, but what we’ve got here is a guy who basically takes others ideas and gets paid for it and doesn’t always credit back. If you run an AP or Reuters wire as a newspaper for example you have to not the source and you actually pay to use it. This guys justs takes stuff and doesn’t give it attribution.

    I’m yet to see once anyone argue the “AOL Journal Blog” point, including Miller himself, because it cant be defended, it was ripped, plain and simple.

    Despite what Miller claims I don’t hold a license on news, I am after all only 1 of millions, but when you start using my words without crediting them I’m entitled to be pissed. He’s a crafy rewriter of words, I’ll give him this, but this time he messed up.

    Heres me with my optomistic view of the world again, if others are doing it, it doesn’t make it right. If everyone was raping small children would that make it acceptable. The defence of “Im not alone, everyone else is doing it” never stacks.

    Andy, false accuser? prove me wrong and I’ll recant.

  11. Duncan – I don’t know anything about this actual case but the way I see it is this: if you write a story/post from your own view (100% editorial) then this can not be used without your permission.

    If he’s taking pieces from your post which include quotes from others then that’s okay. There’s no real grey area here. It’s black or white: pure editorial content is yours – taking from a press release or another source attributed source is free-for-all.

    When I write a post that includes pulling some content from another blog I write it like this:

    From Duncan of The Blog Herald (linked):
    ” and your conent goes there”

    or The Blog Herald writes: “….

    and I usually attribute the source at the end of each post (ie: via The Blog Herald … or source: The Blog Herald) and it’s all linked so the original author gets due recognition for their work.

  12. Mike says:

    Did you really just make an analogy to raping children?

  13. Andy Merrett says:

    Duncan,

    If you run an AP or Reuters wire as a newspaper for example you have to not the source and you actually pay to use it. This guys justs takes stuff and doesn’t give it attribution.

    Oh please…

    Try looking at your Mortage refinancing blog and then in the mirror. Stop accusing others when you do the same yourself (or someone who “writes” for you does,at least)

    I’ve commented on this on your post so won’t go into it at length here.

    If you hadn’t mentioned AP here, I’d not have brought it up here, but that goes too far.

    PS Yep, Mike, he did: nice appropriate analogy there, eh? Not. Just to divert attention away from the issue by introducing an offensive thought.

  14. Duncan, all fun and joking aside – I think the children thing went a little too far.

    I know what your thought process was behind saying it but you could have used a different analogy to get your point across.

  15. Andy Merrett says:

    Censored!

    I’ve achieved my first censored blog comment (that I know of).

    Mr Riley really doesn’t like me.

    That’s OK.

    If you are interested in what I wrote on his blog (that I initially linked to from comment 13 here) then I have a copy on my blog. You can find it should you want to read it (along with some other stuff). I won’t directly link as it might be seen as shameless self-promotion or incitement to blogger hatred, or something like that.

    What an achievement! :-)

  16. mike says:

    That is actually the funniest turn of events this little debacle could have taken. You bust this guy red handed ripping entire articles, ignoring AP’s terms of use and just plain ol’ hypocricy and what happens?

    Well, you get an email from him talking about how he’d prefer to discuss this kind of thing out of the public eye – right before he deletes your post.

    Between that, Jason’s response and the utterly tasteless rape reference I must say, I have seldom, if ever, seen anybody slaughter their own credibility with as much efficiency and zeal. Really, an impressive display. This must have been what it was like to watch DaVinci paint.

  17. mike says:

    Well I was wrong. It can get better.

    Now he’s making up quotes and attributing them to Jason on his blog. I suppose since Jason didn’t engage him in a name calling session, he figures it’s cool to just use a little ‘creative license’ and ‘imagine’ a quote from Miller. The quote ‘example’ wherein Miller (linked to webpronews.com) refers to him as a d!ckhead is pure fiction.

    http://www.blogherald.com/2005/09/12/a-quick-guide-to-referencing/#comments

  18. Andy Merrett says:

    Nah, you watch.Mike… It’ll U-turn, I’ll be the bad guy. I’ll probably be sued for publishing my own email messages (even though there was no disclaimer on the end of his message, I did check)

    Oh well… that’s what happens from being too Christian / charitable, or whatever…

  19. Andy Merrett says:

    Nice one Mike!

  20. Luna says:

    I have to agree with Mike. It seems like this boils down to childish “wah wah! I said it first, give me all the credit or I’ll try to make you look like a child rapist in my blog”. Get over it…you’ve made a fool out of yourself Duncan!

  21. Andy Merrett says:

    My comments to Duncan were obviously ‘defamatory or vulgar’ because

    5. Redress
    The Blog Herald offers those who believe that items reported are incorrect or unfair the opportunity of redress through the use of open comments. It is our policy that comments are not deleted even if they are critical. Comments are only deleted if they contain vulgar or defamatory statements that may legally oblige us to remove them.

    (Disclosure and Editorial StatementBlogHerald)

    You can judge for yourself whether I was vulgar or defamatory, in my archived copy of my final comment (at least two others were also deleted in a cull of Andy Merrett comments)

    Still, that’s nothing: I have been threatened with being turned into “Andy Merrett flavoured bacon” by another blogger)

    I sense a reputation coming on…

    :)

  22. Andy Merrett says:

    One final post I’ve written on my blog on the subject of Duncan expecting to do business involving him in private, yet not affording the same courtesy to others.

    I think here endeth the Riley attack for the time beiing.

  23. Mike says:

    Andy Merrett Says:

    “I have been threatened with being turned into “Andy Merrett flavoured bacon” by another blogger”

    It’s like the Sopranos meets Dilbert.

  24. Andy Merrett says:

    Duncan has replied to me personally resolving several issues that I raised here, on BlogHerald, and on my blog.

    Whilst I don’t think everything has been resolved (see my final, final post on this matter at my blog!) I thank you, Duncan, for doing this.

    That’s all I wanted!

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Jason Lee Miller wrote a long response, and immediately readers took sides, and accusations started flying. Finally, Riley shut off comments, saying: Thread Shut. I’m sick and tired of dealing with twits. [...]