Support journalism at its source

Supporting journalism at its source should be a moral imperative for anyone who depends upon that journalism: reporters, editors, news organizations, bloggers. It’s just enlightened self-interest: Link unto others as you’d wish they’d link unto you. And it is the basis, I believe, of the architecture of the news industry in the future: News organizations should do what they do best and link to the rest. And when they do their best, they should hope that others will link to them. Thanks to the economics of the web this is how journalism will be supported — with links.

The industry isn’t architected that way now: Newspapers and TV shows replicate the work of others so they can say they did it themselves (when, in truth, they’re merely leeching off the prior art and rarely advancing it). Wire services grab this original content and syndicate it under their logos — a model that made perfect sense when we couldn’t read the news around the world, at its source, with the speed of a click. Bloggers have an ethic of linking to the journalism they write about. News organizations don’t.

And that, as Matthew Ingram point out, is the problem with the wire services’ deal with Google that enables the aggregator to now display full stories not from the source but from the wires, which usually copy from and distribute the work of the source. A commenter on Matthew’s blog gives him a real-life example: the AP picked up a unique story from the Nashua, NH, Telegraph and that’s what Google displayed — along with other AP clients’ versions — above the original story from the paper. Now I know that the AP has been sensitive to this in many cases; they’re not out to hurt their own members and clients.

Nonetheless, the Google deal does rob traffic, thus revenue, from the paper that invested in journalism. And that will not help sustain journalism.

Note that the Nashua editor chuckles because picked up the story and linked to the original — we pride ourselves in that in this world — and sent it good traffic. So Fark served journalism better than the wires and Google. That is telling.

This is not a matter of just credit and pride. This is about supporting journalism at its source.

And it wouldn’t be hard to do. Whenever reporters at a wire service — or a newspaper, web site, TV station, magazine, or blog — sit down to write a story, they should include links to their source material, whether that is others’ stories or web sites or original documents . . . or even, yes, Wikipedia. We bloggers do it, it’s not hard. If they’re writing this for online, the links should appear as they do in blog posts. If for some other, older medium, then they should at least be available online.

It’s only right.

  • “Architected”…! Say it ain’t so…

  • Adrian:

    My dictionary says:

    architect |ˈärkiˌtekt| noun a person who designs buildings and in many cases also supervises their construction. • a person who is responsible for inventing or realizing a particular idea or project : a chief architect of the plan to slash income taxes.

    verb [ trans. ] (usu. be architected) Computing design and make : few software packages were architected with Ethernet access in mind.

    ORIGIN mid 16th cent.: from French architecte, from Italian architetto, via Latin from Greek arkhitektōn, from arkhi- ‘chief’ + tektōn ‘builder.’

  • Killer example. Having been a reporter for a while, I always found it galling when my story ended up in another paper credited to the AP. Tell me why we need AP again?

  • Jeff – thanks for the mention. As a follow-up, we sent emails to AP and Google noting the situation and wondering aloud if a solution is forthcoming.

    My suggestion – AP should just add an “original source” URL field to their feeds – which Google is now picking up. Google would then simply need to match the ‘source’ URL with news articles they spider and let the algorithm give some extra points to the originating publication.

    This was an issue before the AP/Google partnership – just check out for New Hampshire wire stories. Take a guess who has the better Google pagerank and you see the where some of our potential traffic ends up even at the regional level.

  • It’s comical to read you fossils quibble over stuff as antiquated as the 8-track player.

  • Pingback: Make Them Accountable / Media()

  • Christian

    “Bloggers have an ethic of linking to the journalism they write about. News organizations don’t.”

    Journalists younger than 35 certainly do.

  • Pingback: Damien Mulley » Blog Archive » In case of emergency, break glass and take out press card()

  • “…they should include links to their source material.” This is debatable. In theory it should stop lazy people who simply take material wherever they find it and upload it as their own. However, keeping sources private is one of the main qualifications for being a professional journalist.

  • Pingback: Journalism Daily - Today’s Top Blog Posts on Journalism - Powered by SocialRank()