24
16
Gini Dietrich

Should Journalists Be Required to Link to Inspiration Sources?

By: Gini Dietrich | October 8, 2012 | 
112

Martin Waxman, Joe Thornley, and I always record Inside PR late on Friday afternoons.

It gives us time to reflect on the week, plus we typically don’t have any interruptions that late so it’s a good time to focus.

This past week, which will run on Wednesday, Joe asked us if we’d read, “Acknowledging Antecedents, Again” by Darren Barefoot (an awesome name, by-the-way).

I had not read it so I took a few minutes to do so. And it let to a very lively discussion where we didn’t all agree.

The Back Story

Each of you likely will remember the hubbub this summer when Cathryn Sloan, a University of Iowa student, wrote , “Why Every Social Media Manager Should Be Under 25.”

Whoa, Nelly. Did people get offended. In all fairness, it was short-sighted and, well, lacking of perspective, but articles and blog posts galore were written about it.

Including an Inc. article by Hollis Thomases who wrote, “11 Reasons a 23-Year-Old Shouldn’t Run Your Social Media.”

In that article, she did not make mention of Sloan’s original blog post, nor did she link to any other articles or blog posts that defended or criticized it.

She just wrote her perspective and let the readers defend or criticize her.

In the same vein, Shelley White wrote an article for The Globe & Mail called, “Why a 22-Year-Old Shouldn’t Be Handling Your Social Media” (they since have changed the article’s title to, “Social Media too Important to Be Handled By an Intern”).

And, like Thomases, did not link to the original article nor do any of the other articles or blog posts that defended or criticized it. She did not, in fact, even link to the Inc. article.

The Echo Chamber

Which is where the awesomely-named Darren Barefoot comes in.

He challenged The Globe & Mail for not linking to Thomases’s article and for using a much too similar “link bait” headline (which was changed when Barefoot emailed the business editor).

But here’s the real meat of the discussion.

He says,

In our remix culture, I feel strongly that we ought to, whenever possible, acknowledge our antecedents. It would have been easy for the Globe to recognize and link to Inc. in the text of the article (“In August, Inc. asked the question…”) or in a footer at the end of the article.

And, as Joe, Martin, and I were discussing it on Friday, they agreed. And, in my own practice I agree. I always give credit where it is due and link or quote when I’ve received inspiration from another source.

But I’m on the fence about it when it comes to journalism. You know, the kind where people get paid to write for publications that report stories without bias or opinion.

The Globe article was really well-written and was very well researched and reported, complete with quotes from both sides of the argument.

Sure, they have since admitted they read Thomases’s original article and that’s where they got their inspiration. But, in today’s digital age, are they required to link to it?

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, a Chicago-based integrated marketing communications firm. She is the lead blogger here at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. She is the co-author of Marketing in the Round and co-host of Inside PR. Her second book, Spin Sucks, is available now.

107 comments
etelligence
etelligence

I always acknowledge and link to antecedents, in fact I've always been under the impression by Google that if your blog content was totally devoid of external links to contextually relevant articles that it would hurt your rankings in the SERPs, with only .edu sites being excepted. I remember seeing a few case studies several years ago that seemed to verify that. 

 

... but I have to agree with you in the case of the Sloane article. They may as well have linked to Facebook because there was far more said about it on Facebook than anywhere else - the fact that NextJen Journal had Facebook commenting enabled is the primary reason that Sloane's article went viral while dozens of other articles in a similar vein never did. 

 

I even wrote an article titled something like "Why You Shouldn't Let a 14 Year Old Manage Your Social Media".  I never read the Hollis Lady's article though. I probably did see it tweeted (I remember purposely parodying the title from someone else's post), but I never read any of those articles because I already knew what they'd say.

molasses_jones
molasses_jones

@helpareporter @SpinSucks ABSOLUTELY... actually so should everyone else.

ToniAntonetti
ToniAntonetti

You're only required to link to a post or article if you mention it or quote from it. If you were INSPIRED by it, it would be pretty ridiculous to have to attribute inspiration. Likewise, we'd require network TV shows that are "ripped from the headlines" to attribute their inspiration, too. Won't happen. BTW, just covered the topic on my PR Chicago blog today (no, I hadn't read this post, but I did link to some of the articles). 

danatanseo
danatanseo

If journalists should be required to link to inspirational sources, then shey should also be required to be excellent writers. The latter should take care of the former. It seems requiring all journalists to be excellent, responsible writers is the real thing in question.

WarrenWhitlock
WarrenWhitlock

Required? Please no.

 

I had the idea for a blog post like this, may have tweeted it or mentioned it and assume you read every word I type. 

 

Would I like a link and credit? Duh! 

 

Would putting in a link and credit be a good idea for you? I think so, everyone benefits from sharing.

 

When we start trying to make rules like this, we get in trouble. The patent system was developed to protect idea that people made into products. It's declined into ridiculous claims on people who put real work into developing something from those ideas.  Surely, the though in my head is not covered (yet). The conversation we have over lunch doesn't need it either. Blog post? Heck no, that would mean every wannabe inventor would be writing up all sorts of silliness and no one on deadline would ever get done checking.

 

Copyright protects us from plagiarism. There are enough blatant abuses that we will never get to them. Let's not add to that mess.

 

The above ideas are mine. If you want to steal them, I hope you'll send good karma, links or money to me. If you don't I won't chase you down (that's karma's job)

12mass
12mass

@PointBlankSEO Journalists have never been more in the public eye, that's for sure. But there also great advantages. http://t.co/4P3XJ0f5

12mass
12mass

@tedcoine Journalists have never been more in the public eye. But they will also benefit from these public forums http://t.co/dQqQlYDx

12mass
12mass

@shonali Journalists have never been more in the public eye, that's for sure. But there also great advantages. http://t.co/4P3XJ0f5

kfovargue
kfovargue

@PointBlankSEO if your a good journo you already do

12mass
12mass

@KC_slater Journalists have never been more in the public eye. But they will also benefit from these public forums http://t.co/dQqQlYDx

joeldon
joeldon

Interesting topic that focuses on who is the creator of an original idea or theme.  I don't think that the age issue necessarily originated with Cathryn Sloan, since there have been prior posts on who is best to run your social media (education, experience, accomplishments and...age). Sloan's incendiary moment cascaded (her 15 minutes?) into a significant response.  The writers who didn't choose to cite the original ember may have attempted to create the perception of an original topic choice (journalistic intent?) or simply didn't think that they needed to attribute the trending topic during its brief run (cavalier journalism?). We could push for standards of attribution, but I think common courtesy is about the best we can hope for in the Wild Wild West of our new journalism.

Oakville
Oakville

@DonnaPapacosta We do too. People get "inspiration" from our articles A LOT. :-)

dbarefoot
dbarefoot

Thanks for writing (and talking) about my article. You don't actually say why you're on the fence with regard to journalists. Why should they recognize their antecedents?

barrettrossie
barrettrossie

You'd think they'd want to mention it. But if they don't, you can always take great joy in pointing it out in the comments section. 

BlogBloke
BlogBloke

Goes for bloggers too .. RT @RichBecker @spinsucks Should Journalists Be Required to Link to Inspiration Sources?

RichBecker
RichBecker

@ChattyProf @ginidietrich If I had to attribute inspiration, I would have to cite either Michelangelo or Bukowski every day. Sigh.

ahockley
ahockley

@djwaldow @ginidietrich Required? No. Is it a dick move when they don't? Yes.

MikeSchaffer
MikeSchaffer

It's crazy that this is even a discussion.

 

The first things you learn in Journalism 101 are the 5 W's (&H), the inverted pyramid...and citing your sources. If you, as a blogger or journalist, talk about something, you should let people know where to find the source material.

 

Online, it's maybe three clicks.

1) Copy the URL

2) Click the "Link" button in your CMS

3) Paste the URL

4) Click "Done"

 

If the source is germane to your article/blog, then it's a no-brainer. (One exception - if it's the Hulk Hogan sex tape. Nobody needs to see that. cc @jeffespo )

 

ExtremelyAvg
ExtremelyAvg

I do enjoy coming here. That was a great line, "You know, the kind where people get paid to write for publications that report stories without bias or opinion." Ah, the good old days when journalism meant writing without bias or opinion. I miss the 70's.

 

I'm quite sure that any student in journalism school who submitted a piece without bias or opinion would be kicked out of school and possibly set on fire. I don't think it is allowed anymore.

 

It was nice to wax nostalgic about the good old days, though.

Latest blog post: Do You Like To Laugh?

EveGelman
EveGelman

@ginidietrich Bloggers have rules?

ginidietrich
ginidietrich

@marthamuzychka Right? Is it plagiarism if they don't source?

TonyBennett
TonyBennett

Eh, I don't think it should be a requirement... Hey, I you just read me And this is crazy But here's my backlink So credit me maybe? I don't know about all that

Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes
Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes

Sometimes journalists are bloggers but not in a paid context.

 

Anyhoo, I think it depends a variety of things.

 

If you are writing about a "significant" event it might be hard to pinpoint just one point of inspiration. The election, Olympics, end of the The Sopranos all come to mind as having been topics of past posts I have written in which there were fingers pointed about who wrote what first.

 

But these things were so big it is hard to say who was inspired first and by what. Could be coincidence, or maybe not.

 

There is a topic I used to "own" on one of my blogs that was recently covered by a big publication. I say used to "own" because the publication's online presence is so much larger than my own they knocked me down a notch or two in the search results.

 

I think the writer visited my blog, but I am not sure. As you can imagine they didn't give me credit and while it irks me, I am not certain they are really obligated to. Maybe if the focus was more specific and touched an angle that hadn't been looked at by anyone by me, but even then...

 

So are we obligated to disclose or link to the inspiration? Nah, in most situations I would say no, but it would be the courteous and respectful thing to do, provided we were aware of the other.

 

 

annelizhannan
annelizhannan

I find the word 'inspiration' to be the difficulty in answering your question and leads us all open to the it depends response. I don't see ethics as part of the equation as inspiration for writing may come from a compilation of posts, articles, daily life or dream. Should the inspiration emanate from a sole source I would agree that acknowledgement is respectful, the right thing to do and the socially responsible action is to link,  but not a requirement.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @ToniAntonetti So, if you read an article and it causes you to write a blog post about it, you don't think it would be nice (if not required) to say, "In the U.S., Inc. wrote an article including the 11 reasons a 23-year-old shouldn't run your social media. We dig some digging on both sides of the argument and this is what we've come up with."??

dbarefoot
dbarefoot

And by "why should they", I meant "why shouldn't they".

RichBecker
RichBecker

@BLOGBloke @SpinSucks True. My earlier quip not withstanding, it is proper form to hit tip, cite, or link the most direct inspiration.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @MikeSchaffer  But that's the rub for me. I don't think it was germane to her article. Would it have been polite for her to link to it? Sure. Could she have written it without reading the original article? Absolutely. And there isn't any evidence she read it; just that her editor did and assigned the story. 

ginidietrich
ginidietrich

@EveGelman Ha! Well, some of us follow rules.

marthamuzychka
marthamuzychka

@ginidietrich Attribution always important. I think the original headline was the nod to the source in Globe example. Wente different tho.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @thejoshuawilner It's kind of like I posted a video on Gin and Topics a few weeks ago and six of my friends (who I know read the blog) posted one of the videos on their Facebook pages without a) linking to the blog post or b) tagging me in the update. And there were TONS of shares so my little blog post would have gotten a lot of attention. It kind of hurt my feelings so I know what you mean.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @annelizhannan That's kind of where I land on this...though I do see both sides. Let's say I write a book. A novel. And I piece together character development from reading three authors and mystery from another and detail from another. Should I mention them in my book acknowledgements? It sure would be nice if I did say they inspired me, but is it necessary?

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @dbarefoot I'm on the fence because it was a source of inspiration, but there were a gazillion articles and blog posts written about that particular subject (the Inc article didn't link to the original article Cathyrn Sloane wrote) so what if the idea came from the firestorm it created on the web and not that particular article? 

 

Do I think it would have been nice of them to do? Yes. Do I think their headline was way too similar? Absolutely. And I love that you called out the editor about it. But I'm on the fence as to whether or not they should recognize their antecedents. 

BlogBloke
BlogBloke

@RichBecker @SpinSucks Which really isn't all that hard to do thanks to Google indexing.

BlogBloke
BlogBloke

@RichBecker @SpinSucks I would also add that we should attempt to determine the 'original' source as best we can in this age of plagiarism.

EveGelman
EveGelman

@ginidietrich Anybody can be a journalist today if they have access to the internet. Where are the fact checkers?

TonyBennett
TonyBennett

@ginidietrich But I totally had a typo and can't edit on mobile... Shouldn't have said "I you." The I threw off the whole tune

annelizhannan
annelizhannan

 @ginidietrich How many of us truly have original thought. Are not our thoughts formulated from a concoction of what we read or experience. Surely, when performing your research for a novel you keep notes of specific ideas that inspired you but unless you cite with direct attachment to that author it becomes a nicety, not a necessity to acknowledge. I'm referring to plagiarism here. 

 

I have read over all the comments on this page and formed MY thoughts 'inspired' by much of what I read. I have not quoted anyone, nor did one statement spark my necessity to link. The topic was not my original thought but I am here writing about it because you and others have inspired me to do so. I acknowledge the collective contribution but I don't feel the necessity to thank each one.  

 

By the way, for your novel, you have quite the reservoir of characters here. At any given time or place, without notes before me, I could help you acknowledge them because they have somehow inspired me but I doubt it would be necessary or required...get it? 

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @dbarefoot Where I'm on the fence is if inspiration came from a conversation happening online, but not one particular blog/article.

 

And, in this case, if the editor knew about the article, but the reporter did not, where does the responsibility lie? Should he have linked to the Inc. article after she turned in the story? Actually, now that I type that out, I think yes. He should have.

 

Thanks for contributing to the conversation, awesomely-named man!

dbarefoot
dbarefoot

 @ginidietrich Fair enough. I'll reproduce what I wrote to somebody about this topic:To me, the burden of acknowledging antecedents is on the creator (writer, editor, documentary filmmaker, web designer and so forth), and they often know where their ideas came from. If one can clearly draw a line backward to what inspired or informed a piece of work, then they ought to acknowledge that. In a couple of earlier posts on this topic (http://goo.gl/XBCNOhttp://goo.gl/fEumc), I've cited a bunch of examples where this would be pretty straightforward.

 

Of course, we may not honestly always be able to cite our sources, because they've become mixed up and mashed together in our head. That's fair enough, but we ought to try.

 

Giving credit is free, as are pixels. To my thinking, it's a foundational aspect of the web. The main barrier to doing so is the pretense that one is an absolute authority who developed an idea in a vacuum.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich

@EveGelman That was the issue with this particular article - the fact checker didn't feel like there needed to be attribution

Trackbacks

  1. […] well, the blog post I wrote on Monday about whether or not you should link to your inspiration sources is the top content for the past […]

  2. […] Always do your research. I didn’t have a prior background in tennis or road cycling and hadn’t even heard of biathlon when I was assigned to it in Vancouver. You can run news conferences and workrooms without knowing the sports intimately, as there will always be experts on hand to consult, but you will have far more credibility with media if you are familiar with the history and rules of the sport and know the leading athletes to look out for, especially when working in the Mixed Zone. […]

  3. […] leads to the third way of finding useful subreddits…the helpful links […]

  4. […] well, the blog post I wrote on Monday about whether or not you should link to your inspiration sources is the top content for the past […]