“We Had That First!”

Nothing enrages FishbowlDC readers and tipsters more than when they think one news outlet failed to credit or recognize (or realize) that someone else “had that story first.” (Doesn’t everyone have a story — or seven — about how so-and-so “stole” your item or didn’t give you credit for my story?!? It comes with the biz, it seems)

Harry Jaffe discusses one such example:

    The Washington Post gave front-page play Wednesday to David Nakamura’s story about how the blueprint for DC’s public schools drafted by Mayor Adrian Fenty’s administration was a cut-and-paste job. Nearly a third of the 31-page document was “borrowed” from a North Carolina school system’s plan, according to a plagiarism expert quoted in the Post story, and parts of it were copied verbatim.

    Great story, given Fenty’s move to take over the school system. But didn’t we hear it first on WAMU radio last Friday? Yes, the local public-radio affiliate scooped the Post. But did the Post credit WAMU? That’s not so clear.

Read the rest here.

There are plenty of people who think that the Post has a “if it hasn’t appeared in the Post, it hasn’t happened” mentality and that they don’t often properly credit other outlets. (Of course, these are the digs that any leading city paper has to endure.)

For sure, publications should do a better job being cognizant of other’s reporting. On the one hand, the Internet (and the myriad news outlets it makes available at the click of a button) makes it harder to have work that hasn’t appeared elsewhere. But it also makes your life easier by allowing you to quickly search news outlets to make sure no one else has covered your topic.

One of the problems in this debate is that you can’t prove that one outlet saw your piece first and it’s hard to say that you have ownership over a story idea (having exclusive material/reporting is another matter). Further, there is an argument that if you don’t report a story simply because someone else has, your readers are the ones who ultimately suffer (since they may only read one publication).

What do you think? Drop us a line.