Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The AP,, and Earphones

In the epic battle between New Media and Old Media, some comedy. And tragedy – because in this case, Old Media refuses to answer a legitimate New Media question about when it’s okay to quote material said by or written by a source that is not part of an interview.

This is a critical question for “real” journalists to answer. I know as a journalist I frequently spoke to people on the phone or in person, then in conjunction with the quoted material, used information from web sites, blogs and other material from the source that I certainly didn’t come up with in the interview. And I think it’s safe to bet that no matter how many Old Media folk may squeal that they don’t do that kind of thing, the practice is monnaie courant among Old Media reporters. Just as it is among New Media reporters.

Here’s the rub, as summed up most wonderfully by MG Seigler, writing at You can (and should) read the full post here. Basically, widget-seller, bought up by, called out the Associated Press for lifting 24 words from a Woot blog post about the sale without telling anybody at Woot about it. Woot, in a clever blog post, takes the AP to task for doing something the AP has howled at bloggers for doing – taking AP content and posting it on blog without permission or payment – and thrown it back at them. Using an AP formula, Woot asked for payment of $17.50 for the quoted material. Here’s the AP story. Seigler points out that the only quote in the story that came from the interview with the AP is the three and a half words: “I’m really excited.”

Seigler point-blank asks the AP the following, pertinent question in his post:
so I’m confused, you’re allowed to quote all you want for free from a blog post if you do a phone interview with the person and quote three words from that interview? so if I do a phone interview with the AP, can I then copy and paste an entire AP story free of charge? serious question.
He hasn’t received an answer from the AP, as of yet, aside from mumblings about this being a “non-story” and a refutation of the figures Woot used in its facetious charge. But that’s probably all they’ll get Some in Old Media doesn’t really like it when its common practices are called out on the carpet.

To be sure, I’ll bet poor Rachel Metz, the AP reporter who wrote the story, is going to get a talking-to. Not about the practice of quoting blogs, but likely about remaining tight-lipped about the whole situation should anyone call to ask her about it. Woot seems to think Reuters and UPI might be calling AP to talk about the situation, not realizing that Reuters and UPI are doing the same shuffling, mumbling two-step the AP is doing about the whole situation. I wouldn’t put it past Agence France-Presse to call the AP on the carpet on this, because, well, they call the carpet on everyone.

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