Thursday, August 6, 2009

Standard Etiquette for Sharing Content

Last night on #editorchat (via Twitter) we discussed content sharing. Of course the discussion was particularly relevant this week after the Washington Post/Gawker debacle. Regardless of your thoughts on the matter, I think most journalists in the industry would agree there needs to be some kind of standard for content sharing.

But setting down a list of rules that must be followed is not likely to be productive. Bloggers, who usually pride themselves in there ability to write without the confines of an editor screening their work, aren’t likely to follow some established rule book.

I suggest instead standards of etiquette. And just like some people don’t feel the need to use a napkin or refuse to rip their role into smaller bit-sized pieces, not everyone will follow these standards, but is most writers and editors did the situation would be much improved.

The standards of etiquette:

  • Any content taken from another source must be attributed to that source. (even if its only a paragraph or minor fact.)
  • If the entire story is basically a re-write of another person’s work that needs to be indicated up front. The last sentence in the first paragraph is the perfect place to insert the publication or author’s name.
  • While it is ideal to list both the original writer’s name as well as the publication, that isn’t likely to happen. For newspapers the publication should be listed, for blogs the author should be indicated (unless it is a widely known blog).
  • Somewhere in the article should be a link to the original article and it should not be hidden away in a smaller font after the last paragraph.
  • For non-media companies utilizing an article in a report or internal company note, the media source needs to be contacted and permission must be granted to distribute the article.
  • The publication taking someone else’s article needs to do its own fact checking on the article, realizing that no one is infallible and therefore a certain amount of research needs to be put into a piece, even if it just a quick rewrite.
[I had something like this happen just a few weeks ago. Thanks to an editing error, my first paragraph contained confusing information about the location of the property. Another publication picked up the article, rewrote it and then contacted me to find out what the actual location was. A simple google search or call to the company would have clarified but the writer ignored those normal paths and sent me several e-mails to make sure everything was clarified.]
  • It is irresponsible to use the phrase ‘according to reports’ unless in fact several publications have reported on this topic. Otherwise if one publication breaks news that pub needs to be referenced and the story linked to; this is the case even after several publication have rewritten that first pubs report.
  • Any publication that picks up full articles from another publication and runs it without a rewrite should indicate both the name of the original publication as well as the writer’s name.
  • It is the editor’s role to ensure standards of content sharing etiquette are adhered to. These should be clearly defined from the get-go.
Thoughts on this? What else should be included in this standard of etiquette?

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