Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The news lending library is wide open

A loyal FFE reader spotted what the new MLive Media Group will probably be like as a Flint Journal reporter simply linked to a competitor's sports story instead of doing the appropriate leg work.

Back in the day this would have been unthinkable, but today is apparently completely appropriate. On the one hand the reporter did the ethical thing by crediting the work to his competitor, but this would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.

To be clear this is not a rap on the reporter as this is what the business has become in just a very short time. I'm sure there is little time to do original reporting when it is just as easy to link to someone else's work.


Anonymous said...

Be fair, Jim. It's not just MLive that does this. That's the way the entire business works whether you like it or not. Things might not work the way they did back when you were winning those multiple Pulitzer Prizes but we also don't churn our own butter, use rotary phones or pay 25 cents for a gallon of gas like we did in the good old days. The world changes. Deal with it.

Jim of L-Town said...

Dear Anonymous 00:46:

I think I made it clear in the last paragraph that this is what "the business" is becoming. I certainly know that it is not just MLive that is going this route. This blog, minus the occassional rant, is about MLive/Booth/Advance.

So perhaps to REALLY save money we could just have one reporter, say one that the government in power likes, cover everything that happens in Washington and then no one else would have to hire a Washington reporter.

Every newspaper and news organization in the country could then use his/her stuff.

Then locally, we could do the same, just pick one radio, TV, or print publication to cover, say Flint, and everyone else could use that stuff for free.

No need for competition or a different point of view. Then for sports we'll just have coaches tell us what happened in the game, let's pick the home teach coach so that he/she will report the game fairly. Works for me.

And heck, every major league sports team hires good pr people (probably a lot of former newspaper folks) and we could just let them submit stories about our favorite local college and professional teams and they will tell us what we need to know about them. No need for any sports reporters in that model. It'll hold down the complaints about unfair coverage as well.

No need to cover the schools either, all the former newspaper reporters there can submit positive articles about what is happening in our schools so parents will know what is going on there as well.

Then for cities like Burton, Fenton, Otisville, Lapeer, etc. we could just have the mayor submit articles about what happened at last night's governing board meeting. That should save a boat load of cash.

And for opinions just let any number of free bloggers chime in with their well thought out editorials.

You may call that news, but I never will.

Come over to to see how I'm dealing with it.

And as for winning a Pulitzer Prize, you got me there. Never was one much for journalism "prizes" anyway. I did win a few AP and other plaques and all those tropies are either in my attic in a box or being used to level up a row of free standing shelves in my tool shed.

Writing stories specifically to win prizes is what got the business in the mess it is in today.

Anonymous said...

You know the people who cover city hall and government in Flint aren't letting the Mayor submit stories no will it ever happen. Nobody said newspapers are going to take everything straight from the city or team. Last time I checked MLive wasn't doing that. And if you really want to talk about stealing, I saw something on TV last night that was straight out of the local paper and it wasn't even credited. To me, that's 100 times worse than linking something. At least the linkee (if that's even a word) gets some credit as well as Internet traffic. The system may not be perfect but it's what the business has come to these days. There's still an opportunity for people to do a lot of good work. The methods are just different.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Anonymous 00:46 that MLive is not the only online news organization linking to other sites, but I disagree or at least question how common the practice is of online news orgs linking to competitors. I understand, as someone who's been online since the days of Prodigy, that online news orgs will and do link to other sources. In that way, they are simply using a world-changing tool available since, heck, Al Gore invented the Internet. But I think a lot of media orgs by policy don't link to competitors' sites. If you know otherwise, fine, but I would ask for something besides anecdotal opinion. Unless you're including blogs not owned by newspapers, I'm not sure how common it is to link to a competitor. With the FJ and MLive fighting for their very lives (MLive pun intended), why would you ever link to a competitor? Years ago, one might argue that the FJ could link away and not worry about local competition. Can they truly argue that today? Hmmmmm.

Anonymous said...

I know Jim Smith, Jim Smith is a friend of mine, and he never churned his own butter.
And he may not have won a PP, but he was a pretty darn good reporter.
Also, I'll bet he remembers when rotary payphones were 20 cents, not two bits.
Oh, wait, you were talking gas, weren't you?
Deal with it.

Jim of L-Town said...

Dear friend:

Sadly, I am old enough to remember when payphones were a dime and gas was 23 cents a gallon.

To be honest, I would still prefer gas at 25 cents a gallon. But I deal with it.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Jim -- looks like you really touched a nerve or two on this post!

The response is probably from someone who is utterly clueless about that competition is GOOD, what it means and how it makes you better and benefits the reader.

Probably has never experienced the rush of filing an "oh, shit!" story that's sure to get the competing reporter on the beat reemed by his or her editor. And the competitors you respect the most are the ones who do the same thing to you -- and with whom you can gladly share a beer with on Friday nights.

The "everyone does it" assertion is utter crap and it's the kind of depraved mentality that has seriously diminished the profession and the product and serve readers very poorly.

No matter what format a news organization uses to distribute information to readers, a strong, viable competitor is healthy and essential to assuring a quality product.

Personally, I always wanted to beat my competitors bloody senseless (like he was Claude Lemeaux!), NOT cite their work within my stories.

This is, sadly, a notion the dumb brutes running MLive not only reject but openly sneer at.

The worst part about folks who think like Anonymous 00:46 is that they don't even have enough professional pride to be embarrassed or ashamed of the depths to which they sink. Nor do they probably even realize the kind of slop they turn out.

Anonymous said...

Be fair, Jim. It's not just MLive that does this. That's the way the entire business works whether you like it or not. Things might not work the way they did back when you were winning those multiple Pulitzer Prizes but we also don't churn our own butter, use rotary phones or pay 25 cents for a gallon of gas like we did in the good old days. The world changes. Deal with it.

OMG that's some funny $hlt! Really Anonymous 46, "we don't churn our own butter." That's your stupid, thoughtless, reaction to the new reality that what passes for news these days is merely the sharing of a story that someone else wrote? You maroon? You buffoon? You poor ridiculous, uninformed human being. You see back in the old days, we searched for and wrote our news. That's right you young whippersnapper, we actually went out, made calls, made contacts, gathered information and wrote a story based on our own research. Now I know it's particallarly fantastical for you youngsters to g'wan out and just share stories that someone else done did the research on, after all, infermation is infermation. But gal'dang it all I just cain't help but long fer the days when coffee was a nickel, gas was a $1 and real life reporters done did their own reportin. You just cracking me up, boy!

Anonymous said...

I think you have a really good point, and I'll give a nice little example here from

Recently, an Ann Arbor firefighter was killed on I-696, and that was reported as breaking news (and might have been linked to a different news source by This is the kind of link that I think is doesn't have any reporters in Oakland County. It was definitely an interesting story, though, because another Ann Arbor firefighter was killed on an icy highway a few years ago.

Anyway--this firefighter's death was unfortunately ruled a suicide, and there was a domestic violence issue involved--in fact, several days later his wife was still in the hospital. In addition, very recently a well-loved Ann Arbor police officer had also committed suicide.

I'm not a reporter, but I can think of a dozen really interesting articles to follow up on for this article--about what this guy was like in the fire department; about public service officers and suicide; about public service officers and domestic violence; about whether this guy had a history of domestic violence, etc. Unfortunately, all we got was a link to a Free Press article. Now the Free Press did a nice job with their article, but their article didn't have an Ann Arbor focus.

And just so it's clear what I'm talking about, here is the link to the article, and from there you can get to the Free Press article.

And by the way, I don't blame the reporter who wrote up the link--I think the workload is pretty heavy because they have so few reporters.

Anonymous said...

Fist of all, Anonymous 23:23, I do know the rush of filing an "oh, shit!" story on deadline. I've done it often. So don't assume, OK? You know what they say about people (especially reporters) who assume, don't you? And I didn't say the current system was perfect, just that it's what we have to deal with these days. And finally, I'm surprised a top-notch journalist like yourself can't correctly spell Claude Lemieux's last name. I can. (When us young whipper-snappers are unsure of something, we have this new-fangled tool called Google that we consult because we're not nearly as smart as you butter-churners who apparently just take a guess.) Spelling a well-known player's name incorrectly on a tight deadline would truly be an "oh, shit!" moment but for all the wrong reasons. P.S. How do you know my work is slop? Oh yeah, you're assuming again. Carry on.

Anonymous said...

"We really had no plan when we went into this. We were hoping you that are left would fill in the blanks."

Dan Gaydou
(During the "new exciting" Journal hub tour.)

**Jim, I know you probably can't print this as it mentions a name, but my source says this is a quote, albeit maybe a bit paraphrased. Could explain Anonymous 00:46**

Anonymous said...


Is Cathy Shafran now a Flint Journal reporter?

Anonymous said...

Linking to a story in the Tri-County Times? THE TRI-COUNTY TIMES???!!!!???

I guess that's what happens when the quality of the staff at the local weeklies is on par or better than the quality of the staff that remains at a once-great daily.

It wasn't even a very newsy article. It would've taken a very quick phone call to the coaches whose quotes were pulled from the Tri-County to generate some original content on the same topic.

Original content ... another antiquated concept to the "new and improved" MLive/Flint Journal.