Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Tired and emotional, for reals

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  • Sacha, in reply to Felix Marwick,

    happily use huge tracts of reporter’s work on their blogs, chuck in one line of comment, and pass it off as insight

    cough Farrar cough

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19705 posts Report Reply

  • Alastair Thompson,

    To be fair to Farrar he drives a lot of traffic to the stories he "extracts" from. He mostly links to items he considers worthy of being discussed and he also does original work of his own relatively frequently. I think Felix is being a little precious in alleging that when bloggersc quote they are claiming to provide insight. Cameron S possibly thinks he is being insightful when he does the same thing however.

    However where this parasitic thing really goes wrong is in the mistaken view that by linking to news articles bloggers are somehow subtracting from the original . In network terms all links reinforce the authority of the original post.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 220 posts Report Reply

  • Felix Marwick,

    Actually Alistair I was trying to draw a distinction between what I regard as genuine blogging; opinion and news gathering involving individual research vs blatant plagiarism dressed up as opinion/news.

    Forgive me if I get a little pissed off at people who help themselves to my work and that of my colleagues, slap it up on their site without so much as a "please" or a "do you mind". Journalism costs. You want to take our work? How about asking first? How about making a contribution even?

    I don't mind quotes and links. Fair use is fine. But lifting whole articles is taking the piss.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 200 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Mason,

    Upper Hutt • Since Jun 2007 • 1590 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to Ross Mason,

    I think the reply sciblogs (a site I esteem) was too polite to suggest was - nuts

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Felix Marwick,

    Forgive me if I get a little pissed off at people who help themselves to my work and that of my colleagues, slap it up on their site without so much as a “please” or a “do you mind”. Journalism costs. You want to take our work? How about asking first?

    That's a fair beef, Felix, but it goes both ways. Blogging "costs" too, even if that cost is time and effort that could otherwise be expended doing (or at least chasing up) paid work. And, yes, it's not only journalists who can work on a story for weeks and have it fall over.

    Personally, I think some of your colleagues could bear with lifting their game when it comes to proper credit for - or at least attribution of - material, story ideas and even original reporting taken from blogs. But snarling about old media "parasites" wouldn't be very useful.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Graham Dunster,

    "Finally, if you haven’t read Michael Lewis’s magnificent profile of Barack Obama for Vanity Fair, make the time. It’s subtle, insightful and beautifully crafted. Political journalism can be this good."

    Interesting post on Stratfor's site examing the consequences of the NATO interference in Libya dealt with in Michael Lewis' very readable article.

    http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/gadhafi-benghazi?utm_source=freelist-f&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20120918&utm_term=gweekly&utm_content=readmore&elq=77ffdec3ec104592af6dcaa2d54c19bd

    Auckland • Since Nov 2009 • 184 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Felix Marwick,

    How about making a contribution even?

    I like your work on Twitter, Felix. I hope drawing attention to it every now and then helps return your investment of effort. Likewise, me freely offering up potential story leads should help, I imagine.

    But the economics of your industry and our whole knowledge ecosystem have fundamentally shifted. Do you reckon there's enough informed discussion about that amongst your colleagues and peers?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19705 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Felix Marwick,

    lifting whole articles is taking the piss

    It's also a breach of copyright, correct? You could sue, or call in the black helicopters (which I understand are now available to anyone with a copyright beef, or do you need to show a US passport?)

    However, the facts in your articles describe things that happened. You don't own those facts. I can summarize them in my own words and you don't have recourse, beyond loud grumpling.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    I can summarize them in my own words

    I don't think that's Felix's complaint, to be fair.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19705 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Sacha,

    Hard to tell what his complaint was. Copyright law is pretty wide, and if some behaviour still isn't actionable, then what's the grounds for complaint.

    In countries without newspaper monopolies, like the UK, other newspapers will grab copies of rivals when they appear in the middle of the night and produce "spoilers" for their later editions. This is an old tradition - is that acceptable, because it's kept within the "club".

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    Hard to tell what his complaint was.

    Not at all, as I noted above.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19705 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Felix Marwick,

    Forgive me if I get a little pissed off at people who help themselves to my work and that of my colleagues, slap it up on their site without so much as a “please” or a “do you mind”. Journalism costs. You want to take our work? How about asking first? How about making a contribution even?

    I don’t mind quotes and links. Fair use is fine. But lifting whole articles is taking the piss.

    I completely agree. It's also lazy.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22807 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    However, the facts in your articles describe things that happened. You don’t own those facts. I can summarize them in my own words and you don’t have recourse, beyond loud grumpling.

    Summarise away. Felix was complaining about people copy-pasting whole stories, or most thereof. I thought that was really clear.

    But he's not talking about invoking the law, just saying that it's frustrating, given that he's worked on those stories.

    And flipping the bird and saying "you have no recourse!" when you've summarised without bothering to source would be pretty crappy too, really. Why would you do that?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22807 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Russell Brown,

    It'd be useful to post an example of a blog copying and pasting a whole story? I'd have thought if you did that persistently, you'd get at least a cease-and-desist.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    coughFarrarcough #indeed

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19705 posts Report Reply

  • Felix Marwick,

    As I said earlier I’m all for fair use and linking. Dissemination and sharing of news is a good thing. I have nothing against that. Ripping off the work of others is just a bit damn cheeky as far as I’m concerned. Bloggers, quite rightly, hate it when reporters rip off their material without attribution. Reporters feel the same way when it happens to them.

    I guess it all comes down to who you think drives the agenda in the stronger way. Do political bloggers use news sources to fuel their work? Do reporters rely on blogs in the same way? Admittedly I might be biased here but I think things are more weighted towards the former rather than to the latter.

    As far as the cease and desist approach is concerned I’m not convinced that it would work. The costs involved would probably be prohibitive. I believe though that the Herald did raise the issue a few years back. As I recall it created somewhat of a stir in the blogging community.

    As for my use of Twitter, well there are a couple of drivers behind it.It humanises the reporter, it makes you more than just a byline and delivers a form of accountability to your audience.

    It’s a good way to keep a running brief on political happenings. There are a lot of political animals out there and if I can give them info of interest then Twitter’s a good avenue to provide that. After all not all the stories I write make it into the bulletins or onto the website. The other reason that I use it is because it’s a good way to interact with people who read my stories/read my tweets. It’s a great medium to provide answers to questions people may have on stories I’m covering. As a rule of thumb I avoid the rabid partisan approaches, but I do try to give answers to genuine questions if I can.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 200 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Littlewood, in reply to Russell Brown,

    I subscribe to two magazines: Vanity Fair and the New Yorker. I find American newspapers fairly pompous, but their best magazines are just … the best magazines. Granted, there is the odd disappointing issue of VF.

    I first read The New Yorker when I was minding my ex-girlfriend’s flat in Paris in 1987. Reading its vast two-part story on the New York art scene was a revelation with respect to what magazines could do and be.

    Vanity Fair__’s journalism in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis has been superb. Bethany McLean and Michael Lewis aren’t just great journalists (McLean’s first coup was breaking the Enron scandal while everyone else was still cheer-leading for them), they’re also great __stylists. They take what could be very dry topics and find all these fascinating, flawed and occasionally foolhardy characters that get caught up in them. But somehow it’s never at the expense of the nitty-gritty. You can tell that they’ve done their homework, but they’ve also figured out how to tell the human stories.

    (Cards on the table: Bethany McLean is a personal hero of mine. And she’s also a fox.)

    True, you have to take it as read that “cover” article for each issue of Vanity Fair will almost always be a fawning celebrity profile (or yet another piece on the Kennedys. Or Marilyn Munroe) , but the actual long-form journalism inside is frequently vivid, well-researched, spell-binding stuff. It’s no surprise that some of their best articles have inspired some excellent films– e.g. The Man Who Knew Too Much, which provided the basis for the Russell Crowe-starring “big tobacco” conspiracy thriller The Insider (still his best performance, for what it’s worth).

    The US version of Esquire can still do a pretty good low-rent version of Vanity Fair these days too. Their political coverage is pretty sharp. Hell, even that noxious corporate irrelevancy that is Rolling Stone employs guys like Matt Taibbi, whose pieces are often so savage, well-thought-out and hilarious that I just have to stand back and admire their chutzpah.

    Oddly, I can only do The New Yorker for its arts reviews, humour writing and cartoons these days. Something about their house style for feature writing doesn’t quite sit with me–too self-involved, perhaps? (I know, pot calling kettle black, etc).


    Anyway, sorry about the digression, but here’s time for another one- everyone should pick up a copy of the latest Listener for Rebecca Macfie’s feature on the State of Our Water. A robust and timely piece.

    (Sorry about this Russell, as you can tell, I’m a fan of good feature writing, so I like to plug)

    Today, Tomorrow, Timaru • Since Jan 2007 • 449 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Felix Marwick,

    Reporters feel the same way when it happens to them.

    And so they should – but “don’t be a dick” and “assume it’s a cock-up until proven otherwise” are good rules of thumb all around. And my case study is (tah dah!) Fran O’Sullivan. Way back in the dark ages when I was a contributor to NZ Pundit, I did a post with a lengthy (but fair-use compliant) quote from one of her columns where I carelessly deleted the attribution and source link during the final edit. I got an e-mail from her pointing that out, and while the tone was (IMO) needlessly hostile it was substantively a fair cop. I explained the circumstances, apologized, and said I'd change the post to what it should have been in the first place. O’Sullivan found that acceptable, and we walked away without a public slanging match.

    Can be done.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Jeremy Eade,

    Reflecting on this it's kind of nice to know journalists have feelings too, like we all do. I do feel a need to point out that Gordon Campbell has been an incredible New Zealand journalist, a Listener must read when I was first introduced to the magazine as a keen reading youngster, and surely a definite influence on the intelligence offered by the great considered writings of Russell.

    auckland • Since Mar 2008 • 1112 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh,

    For all the accusations of John Armstrong fawning at the feet of whoever's in power, he seems to have come right this piece.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 2401 posts Report Reply

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