Sunday, May 29, 2011

Washington post ombudsman: more on plagiarism and what it means (for freelancers)

Checkout  Washington Post ombudsman Patricia Pexton’s article “Burned by a freelancer” (print, Sunday, May 29, a A17), or “A freelancer is accused of ripping off a documentary for a Post travel article”, link here

When a newspaper pays for a freelance article, it usually pays for factual, original reporting of events observed firsthand, not for opinions or analysis of materials the facts of which have been previously published anywhere. (Newspapers do publish “freelance” opinions from amateurs as forum commentaries, but usually don’t pay for them.)

In this context, then, what the freelancer did in his travel report was a form of plagiarism (as newspapers define it), even though it is not copyright infringement in the sense usually discussed here (as with Righthaven).

Yes, newspapers are between a rock and hard place on using freelance articles.  I have not approached any newspaper recently for a job like this; it is easier to stay focused right now if I remain "independent" for now. This is an important issue for newspapers, however.

I do find that the most effective blog postings are often those where the blogger (me) physically went to the event if possible, or at least watched an entire video record, as with a congressional hearing. 

(See my movies blog, May 20, 2007, for discussion of “Absolut Warhola”, mentioned in the ombudsman's piece.) 
To illustrate the point: first picture is from my parents' estate's home movies, which I own the media rights to use. No copyright issue, but the picture does not represent first hand reporting by me (it is Shenandoah in 1940). The second is a picture I took in West Virginia in 2010; it represents first hand reporting. 

No comments: