Just about any time news breaks, there’s a journalist somewhere whining about credit. As in, I got that story first but those ninnies over at [insert name of arrogant news outlet here] didn’t give me my due! I’ve occasionally been among such whiners.
Rob Beschizza at BoingBoing has a rebuttal for this crowd: “We don’t own the news we break.” In a brief post, Beschizza tells the story of a journo whose story just got ripped off. Would have been nice, writes Beschizza, if credit had been given.
But whatever, he argues:
No-one owes us politeness, and hearing a story first doesn’t make us part of the story. It gives us a first-mover advantage. Isn’t that enough?
Four reasons why “politeness” has nothing to do with a strong crediting policy.
1) Crediting is honest. Let’s just say that a competing outlet beat you to the story that Candidate X punched Candidate Y. So you decide to strategically ignore the story and develop it on your own. You get interviews with Candidate X and Candidate Y and publish the story without crediting the outlet that first published it.
By packaging the incident as news, you’re essentially saying that you published it first. That’s a lie.
2) Crediting is helpful to readers. People care about their media outlets and what sort of stories they do. By noting what outlet broke the news first, you help your readers navigate a crowded news space.
3) Crediting keeps you from looking like a fool. Word spreads these days very quickly about what outlet broke what story. By trying to slip in a story without crediting the first mover, you damage your own credibility. You won’t fool anybody, not even your own family.
4) Crediting is good management. Journalists are competitive and would prefer not to have to credit all the other competitive journalists out there. A rigorous crediting policy will force them to get stories for which they rightly don’t have to credit other organizations.