Let He Who Has Not Ever Aggregated Anything Cast The First Stone, OK?

Yesterday we picked up….er…curated….or possibly even aggregated a post by Ad Age writer Simon Dumenco in which he described how a Huffington Post writer had over-aggregated a piece of his and then been suspended. “We have zero tolerance for this sort of conduct. Given that, the writer of the offending post has been suspended indefinitely,” Huffington Post business editor Peter Goodman told Dumenco.

The reaction to this has been surprising to us…

“Writers, don’t steal other people’s content,” one reader Tweeted. “Good, because I hate people who plagiarize,” wrote another.

Trouble is, there’s a very fine line between aggregation and over-aggregation, or curation and plagiarism, we could say. Yours truly walks that line every day and tries to come down on the right side of the line, but it ain’t always easy.

FishbowlNY not only aggregated a response from The Awl’s Choire Sicha (in which he says “Amy Lee was doing pretty much what she’d been trained to do, either overtly or covertly, and she took the fall for the HuffPo, which is so obviously baloney” and that the punishment is analogous to “arresting hookers instead of johns”) but also added FBNY co-editor Ujala Sehgal’s own take.

Is that how you prevent accusations of over-aggregating? Or if you send enough traffic to the original source, is that all that matters? Everyone these days aggregates; it’s not just the Huffington Post, but Gawker, major newspapers, and, uh, obviously, mediabistro.com’s blog network. Some do it with a greater level of skill or tact than others but everyone does it, and throwing one writer under the bus is a bit extreme.

At any rate, a former HuffPo editor told Gawker that this whole thing is pretty much baloney (insert your favorite word here) because overaggregation is “what we were taught and told to do at HuffPost. Arianna and the higher ups made a decision to stop linking out directly as much and rewrite stories “the way the AP does.” They even hired people specifically to rewrite other people’s work.” If true, the issues at the Huffington Post may go a bit beyond simple aggregation ethics. (And if that isn’t a grad-level course at a journalism school yet, it ought to be.)