Friday, July 03, 2009

When Murdoch Newspapers Do It, It's Journalism, When Bloggers Do It, They're Stealing "Original Content"

By Darryl Mason

John Hartigan, CEO of News Limited, publisher of The Australian, is very upset with independent online news sites like Crikey and Mumbrella because they take "original content" from Murdoch publications and run excerpts of it on their sites, for free. They are using Murdoch content to create content for their websites. They disguise this 'theft', you see, as media commentary, but they're not fooling Hartigan. No way.
Most of the content on these sites is commentary and opinion on media coverage produced by the major outlets.

These sites are covered in links to wire stories or mainstream mastheads. Typically, less than 10% of their content is original reporting.
And they won't survive. Quality, Original Journalism will, says Hartigan :
If you want to attract readers, break stories people want to read.

Give them something they can’t get anywhere else....

Most online news and comment sites don’t generate enough revenue to pay for good journalism.

Good journalism is expensive.
Hartigan is upset with blogs that feed on Murdoch content like Crikey and Mumbrella sometimes do, taking a story published at a News Limited website, like The Daily Telegraph or The Australian, and quoting extensively from it. Filling, say, 90% of a blog post not with original opinion or original journalism, but with heavy, fat slabs cut and pasted from Murdoch journalism that is "expensive", according to Hartigan.

This is wrong, claims Hartigan. Unfair.

But this is just as bizarre as his claim that bloggers don't go to jail, and aren't held accountable for the things they write.

John Hartigan is, of course, full of shit.

The Australian, Daily Telegraph, all News Limited newspapers and websites, rewrite stories published in non-News Limited newspapers and magazines and print them, or post them online, as "original content".

The New York Times gets an exclusive about Saddam Hussein moving forward with plans to launch his own nuclear-missile equipped space station? Some barely heard of young actress admits to a dildo addiction in Vanity Fair? There's a couple of non-Murdoch media originated stories that can be quickly republished as "original content" in all the Murdoch tabloids, from Australia to New York To London and Manchester.

This rewriting, and heavy quoting, of other stories, essay, letters and articles originally published elsewhere, fills Murdoch publications with news, features, breaking news, entertainment, sport and 'WTF' type stories that they never paid for, or spent any more money on 'creating' than it cost for one journalist to quickly lift the best bits and write a few lines like "She revealed to Vanity Fair magazine" or "The New York Times has claimed" to dash some original half sentences around all that furious cutting and pasting, to add 10% original content to the republishing of someone else's work.

This method of taking stories published elsewhere to fill some of that space in its publications is by no means a Murdoch speciality. It's centuries old, and all newspapers, TV news, cable news, magazines, radio stations do it. They feed off each other, and republish each other's work for free, constantly.

Where do you think all the bloggers and the independent online Australian media, now so despised by the heavily populated ranks of the Murdoch executive class, learned how to do it?

As but one example, here's a piece of "original content", as John Hartigan would call it, from The Australian, published shortly after his speech at the National Press Club where he moaned about bloggers taking content from News Limited and using it to fill their own publications.

Cameron Stewart, associate editor of The Australian, takes a 7000 word essay written by Robert Manne and fills more than 90% of a 1700 word story published in his newspaper's print and online with fat slabs of quotes from Manne's essay. Cameron adds the prerequisite "Manne says" and "Manne writes". The essay was published at the independent online magazine The Monthly. The Australian's cut and paste of the Manne essay did not include a link to the full essay.

The Robert Manne essay is, in part, about the tragedy of the bureaucratic responses to the Victorian Fires in Fenruary, where 8 out of 10 phone calls to emergency services from towns like Kingslake and Marysville went unanswered that awful Saturday.

The Australian tastefully titles Cameron's cut and paste effort of this essay on the events that led to the appalling deaths of more than 170 people : 'Manne On Fire'.

The hypocrisy of John Hartigan railing against bloggers and independent online media for doing exactly what his own newspapers do constantly, have done for decades, is hilarious, gagging, mind-frying. You have to have a lot of gall and front to be a Murdoch CEO, obviously.

Try this :
People will pay for it if it is good enough. By good enough I mean that it will have to be: well researched; brilliantly written; perceptive and intelligent; professionally edited; accurate and reliable.

This is not the territory in which aggregator sites or amateur bloggers will do well.
This is the natural terrain of the well-trained, professional, experienced, clever journalist.
Clever journalism obviously also includes building a lengthy story for your online and print newspaper out of a brilliantly written essay originally published elsewhere.

But questions remain.

When News Limited begins charging to read 'prime' or 'premium' content from The Australian online, will we have to pay to read the stories where associate editors rustle up a cutandpaster filled with slabs of other peoples' work? And how much will John Hartigan charge us to read a story in The Australian almost entirely composed of an essay published at its online competitor, The Monthly?