Politico’s Maggie Haberman, like many political observers, quickly understood the importance of the Wall Street Journal editorial that has cornered conversation on Mitt Romney today. Not long after the piece started buzzing around the Web last night, Haberman whipped up a post on the Politico blog “Burns & Haberman.”
It carried one introductory sentence — ”The WSJ editorial page weighs in on Mitt Romney’s ‘Obamacare’ response on ‘Meet the Press,’ and the subsequent cleanup” — before excerpting and excerpting and excerpting and excerpting the editorial itself.
The math: The Wall Street Journal’s editorial has nine paragraphs; Politico’s version, six. Wall Street Journal has 525 words; Politico, 307 words. A more important figure — no link to WSJ in the original Politico roundup.
When asked about the post, Wall Street Journal spokeswoman Ashley Huston responded, “While we appreciate Politico’s attention to this morning’s editorial, such a liberal excerpt with no original Politico content or the courtesy of a link back, is not aggregation; it is exceedingly bad form.”
Huston says that the Wall Street Journal doesn’t make a habit of pursuing people who malaggregate its work. “We don’t go out policing the Web, but when someone is brazen, we do respond.” She declined comment on whether they’d taken up the matter directly with Politico.
Haberman says that a technical mistake resulted in the omission of the link from the post; it has been restored. In Haberman’s defense, her blog posts do not commonly omit links.
The question of overindulgent excerpting is a bit more dicey, however. An editorial as noteworthy as the Journal’s surely tempts journos to take and take and take — after all, you’re talking about a conservative publication whacking a Republican presidential candidate at a pivotal time. Yet as the Journal’s Huston suggests, you have to earn your excerpts via analysis or, as aggregation lecturers like to say, “value added.” In this case a couple of paragraphs addressing how the editorial highlights a Romney vulnerability on health care and raises questions about the solidity of his support among conservative editorialists and media and blah and blah . . . would have helped.