Thin line between plagiarism and quotation journalism
by İsmail Selim Eşsiz
Mar 29, 2015 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by İsmail Selim Eşsiz
Mar 29, 2015 12:00 am
Time and time again we mention problems of plagiarism in the media. We talk about columnists, editors and reporters stealing others' work and presenting them as their own discovery. Failing to give credit where it is due cost many their jobs and the credibility of the news outlet itself. But I believe there is an elephant in the room that is born out of web media's money-making methods and its necessity to supply a constant stream of news to readers.
As you know in Turkey – just like many other countries around the globe – there is an excess number of news outlets operating from the Internet. In this area, the first category belongs to the web versions of print newspapers. These are mostly fed by their print versions and feature both columns and news articles from them. Of course, they also possess a separate news desk in which the main focus is the website, and they provide a large amount of content as well. But especially when it comes to special news and foreign correspondence, they go in their print versions. But these are not the subject of this article.
The second category consists of news websites that exist without the backing of any other outlets. They have their own editors and reporters covering mostly local news and rely on agencies for all others. By the way, in the first category, we see agency news numbers closing in on a scale of an epidemic, but that is the subject of another week. This group produces mostly original content and is therefore exempt from being our elephant.
Thus, we come to the last category. These websites do their reporting almost solely based on other news outlets whether it's print or web only news sources. The only thing differentiating them from one another is the design of their website. Their job is simple I imagine. They take a news article, put a quotation mark, provide a link to the original in a most obscure place (some don't even bother) and voila. You have done the news (!). Their targets are not merely news articles of course. Columns are also a favorite target for "quotation journalism," and by adding tons of keywords, click bait headlines and sometimes gaming the search engine algorithms they manage to top the hits even passing the original source itself in that regard.
Let's take a second to think about this kind of journalism in a print version. Besides being counterproductive, it wouldn't even make a dent in the original newspaper in terms of profits. The only thing the plagiarizer gains would be a horrible credibility and thus a hasty bankruptcy. But in the case of web journalism things change. As I stated in the beginning of the article, the main factor in this change is about how news websites make their money. On this page, we wrote about how advertisement revenues in the media changed in favor of the Internet in recent years. These revenues are usually dependent on the hits a website gets. By cutting these clicks and circumventing them to their own websites, they not only cost others who provide the original content itself, but also make a profit from it.
Some newspapers try to prevent this by blocking the selection of their texts and make it harder to copy and paste. I, however, find this method counterproductive since it also hinders the reader. The only way to stop this is to follow suit on some firms battling piracy. Make your product as good as possible and abandon draconian measures in order to appease your readers. Only then can we expect them to cut demand, therefore causing quotation journalism to die out.