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Posts Tagged ‘Lucas Shaw’

The Dog That Ate the Media’s Homework

Cultural norms don’t change easily.

Last week WaPo published two analysis stories on the forced resignation of Politico‘s Kendra Marr due to plagiarism. Neither credited the outlet that broke the story.

Wasn’t it Paul Farhi who roughly one year ago said citing the original news source didn’t matter? Here’s what he told us at the time: “Personally, I believe it’s a courtesy to credit the original news source of a story, but I don’t think it’s a requirement or even important. All news originates from somewhere (a neighbor, a whistleblower, a government official, a press release, a wire service, whatever) and it’s a reporter’s obligation to check and verify the original information (which in this case it certainly was). Unless one is taking someone else’s work without attribution (that is, plagiarizing it) any news story should stand on its own and speaks for itself as an original piece of work.”

Clearly that view still holds. His newish colleague Erik Wemple has followed his lead despite openly disagreeing with Farhi’s remarks at the time. Wemple was heading up TBD when he wrote this under the post: “When a news organization writes a news story that is already ‘out there’ without giving proper credit to the origin, then it’s creating the impression that it is breaking the news. If indeed another outlet already reported that news, that is a false impression. Or a lie, if you will. So if you’re a news organization that doesn’t credit outlets that break something and act as though you are writing the exclusive, you’re committing an offense that’s tantamount to misleading your readers. And that’s not something that news organizations should be doing. If you care about honesty and transparency, you over-credit.

Does anyone else see the irony of Washington media falling all over themselves to cover a story on a woman being forced to resign for not properly citing other publications and then not attributing to the outlet that broke the news?

Tale of the Tape…Last Thursday night FBDC broke the story of Marr’s resignation. Some might argue that Politico themselves broke the news on the website but newsflash: a publication cannot formally break its own news. What they did was the equivalent of sending out a mass press release. At 8:34 p.m. editors posted an editorial note but not the internal memo. They offered no public accounts of the aftermath. Associated Press rolled in later. No time stamp. No attribution. HuffPost? Basic recap. Nothing new. No attribution. The following day WaPo turned around their typical half a day later analysis stories by Farhi and Wemple. Reuters ran a story by Lucas Shaw of The Wrap: Nothing new. No attribution. Poynter: No attribution, but at least they offered new news. NYT‘s Media decoder blog came in with an embarrassingly late story sans attribution Friday afternoon by Tanzina Vega. Pretty odd considering that a NYT scribe first discovered Marr’s plagiarism and brought it to the attention of Politico brass. Finally, Gawker’s Hamilton Nolan offered a ray of hope akin to kicking a horse when it’s down. “You messed up bad, Kendra. But it only takes five years to be forgiven for anything. Good luck in your next career.” Again, no attribution.

Those who offered citations on how the story first broke: Mediaite, Yahoo! News‘ Cutline Blog, The Weekly Standard. A note to The Weekly Standard’s “Scrapbook” from the latest issue: Why not hold the editors responsible for Marr accountable? I stand by what I wrote: Marr was a solid reporter who didn’t intend anything malicious. This was most prevalent in conversations with newsroom sources at varying levels of power within the publication. Marr’s plagiarism wasn’t an “aberration” as you said I intended with my post. She bears enormous responsibility here. But to say this began with Marr in a vacuum is shortsighted. It was a culture that prompted it, pushed it, even willed it to happen. You make a valuable point on her future and the 25-year-old landing on her feet sometime soon — many hope you’re right.

But all of this begs the question of whether you, Scrapbook, spoke to anyone within Politico’s ranks before writing “Plagiarism Watch.” My money’s on no.

(See what The Weekly Standard had to say after the jump…)

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Politico is a Revenue God, Says TheWrap

This week TheWrap‘s Lucas Shaw exalted Politico‘s current business model with high praise and backed it up with numbers. In his 965-word story, he pegs Politico far ahead of other Capitol Hill competitors, with The Hill in second and Roll Call below that.

In Shaw’s mind Politico is God. At least for now.

What Shaw doesn’t explain is context. When Politico first landed on the scene in 2008, there was curiosity and then fear. Until then, longtime fierce rivals, Roll Call and The Hill, never fretted about a third competitor. Life moves on, but it was exceedingly odd that The Hill‘s former Editor-in-Chief Martin Tolchin was helping to launch a new competitor to a publication he parented for years. Newsroom chatter was full of talk of how surprising this was. The real fright set in after Capitol Leader changed that initial horrid name to Politico. Autumn VandeHei, wife of Executive Editor Jim VandeHei, was responsible for the change. Today they compete for ad dollars and Hill dominance, though Politico considers its real competitors to be Bloomberg, NYT and WaPo.

Shaw also fails to mention that Roll Call is behind a subscriber pay wall. Some media insiders claim he’s comparing apples and oranges, that it’s abhorrent to use their metrics to illustrate Politico‘s competitive edge. Still, other observers see it as right on target and insist that Roll Call putting their work behind a pay wall shows a lack of business savvy. “Roll Call will argue ‘not fair! We’re behind a firewall!’ But they’re missing the point that being behind a firewall is keeping them out of
the conversation and hurting traffic,” said a media source on condition of anonymity. “They use that excuse at their own peril.”

Shaw explained to FishbowlDC, “The story’s focus was more on Politico finding a revenue model that seems to be working (for now) and less about their beating the competition. As you know, traffic really only plays one part in attracting advertisers and an even smaller one in generating revenue, but the numbers are still relevant.”

The numbers indicate that Politico is on top, followed by The Hill followed by Roll Call, which, at least according to the author’s analysis, now languishes in last place amongst the three.

An excerpt: According to comScore, Politico.com has drawn more than 4 million unique visitors for months, rising from around 3.8 million monthly uniques earlier this year. That’s far more than notched by TheHill.com or RollCall.com all year. In July, the most recent month available, traffic shot up at TheHill.com to 1 million uniques, but still lagged behind the 4.2 million at Politico.com. And RollCall.com? It attracted 0.69 million uniques in July.

Like a cherry atop a large hot fudge sundae, there is major snuggling up to Politico‘s Mike Allen for his Playbook. CBS News Senior Political Reporter Brian Montopoli told TheWrap: “When I write a story or if I get mentioned in Playbook I’ll get 10 emails from people saying ‘I saw you in Playbook.’ It becomes a measure of success.”

Shaw added, “I hope the main point still appeared to be the growth in the online business and how profitability has enabled the site to launch new initiatives. Unfortunately, I could not get revenue figures since Politico is not a public company.”

We’ve requested comment from Politico, The Hill and Roll Call on TheWrap’s assertions. We’ll report back to you should we hear from them.

FishbowlDC’s Matt Dornic contributing to the reporting of this post.

UPDATE: A clarification is in order. The Hill‘s Editor Hugo Gurdon found an error in TheWrap’s original story. He writes, “ComScore didn’t measure Roll Call‘s July traffic at 690,000 but at only 69,000, so the story was out by a factor of ten,” he wrote. “The comparison shows The Hill‘s traffic is 15 times higher than Roll Call‘s.”