Maybe some bloggers would be thrilled and flattered to pick up a national newspaper and discover that one of their posts -- or at least 60 per cent of it, just enough to distort the essence of it -- was reprinted, without payment or even permission.
Not so the folks at Spacing Wire, a blog about public space issues in the big city.
Imagine their surprise when a post about World Cup fever by Shawn Micallef was, not to put too fine a point on it, ripped off by the National Post last week.
According to Spacing publisher & creative director Matthew Blackett today (emphasis is mine):
(T)he piece focused on ethnicity, and the National Post is not regarded as a highly enlightened publication when it comes to immigrant issues or multiculturalism. A piece like this deserves to be printed in its entirety (not just 60%) so that the author’s arguments can been fully realized. Shawn had originally quoted text from John Barber, a Globe and Mail columnist and a National Post competitor. The quotes from Barber played an integral role in shaping Shawn’s Spacing Wire post. But the National Post removed Barber’s words which dramatically warped Shawn’s point-of-view. To add insult to injury, Shawn is a frequent contributor to the Globe and Mail and has consciously decided not to have anything to do with the National Post. (Shawn said he was just as offended to have appeared on the same page as the SUV-loving, cycling-hating Jacob Richler).
We contacted the National Post and began to work things out. The Toronto editor was apologetic and said it was part of an “experiment” where the Post was using the blog world as a news source. We talked to our media lawyer (luckily, she writes for us too) and were encouraged to hear that we were in a good position to demand a few things. We asked that Shawn be paid more than what he would have received if he was commissioned to write the piece. We also asked for an apology that would appear on page A2 of the paper. Both requests were granted and today the Post published their apology ...
Here's the apology.
An excerpt from an article by Shawn Micallef from Spacing Magazine (spacing.ca/wire) appeared in the National Post of June 29 -- with the headline "Soccer fans play rough" -- without Mr. Micallef's or Spacing's consent, although the byline, credit and Urban Scrawl label implied the author's consent had been granted. The Post apologizes to Mr. Micallef and Spacing Magazine.
This is alarming on many levels. But I will name just two.
First, that bloggers appear to be considered fair game for what, in this instance anyway, was copyright
theft infringement. (Joe Clark in the comments says I got it wrong.)
Second, that the Post is now resorting to blogs as a news source. Not that bloggers can't be news sources because, Lord knows, they use the MSM as news sources all the time. Why should it not be a two-way street? That plus bloggers have indeed broken stories. But the Post is doing this without informing readers, not to mention at least one blogger, at the same time as it does not use Canadian Press. (Meanwhile the rest of the CanWest Global chain of papers has served notice that it too plans to drop out of CP.)
The thing is, using bloggers is a great idea. I have been pushing for this at the Star for over a year now. So far, we had Marc Weisblott's Paved but not much more. I have also proposed a webcam-based bloggers' political podcast/show to be hosted by moi. Still waiting on that one.
Anyway, maybe the Post's move is a scheme to get bloggers to buy the paper to see if they made it into the mainstream? Kind of like a loto?
Only you don't get a cent.