Monday, July 18, 2005

To Link Or Not To Link

The News & Record ran a feature on the Willow Oaks community in yesterday's edition that was familiar. Local blogger David Wharton points out that he is relatively sure that the N&R did the piece as a direct result of reading a similar post at his blog about a month ago. He notes that the N&R article did not acknowledge his post nor link to it, and he asks what the proper linking etiquette is between MSM and blogs.

Over at Gate City, the Gate Keeper is peeved that part of one his posts was reprinted in the News & Record without his permission. The N&R used the excerpt in a feature on local voices. When I saw the excerpt, I thought GK would be pleased for the exposure, but he is not. While I doubt the N&R had a legal obligation to seek permission, editor John Robinson writes in GK's comments that they should have gotten permission.

In January, the N&R printed an email (free link has rotted) from a friend who had survived a harrowing attack in Iraq. The story ran above the fold on the front page. I had posted the same email at my blog ten days earlier.

Editor John Robinson called me the day before they published the email to let me know they were running it and to ask permission to link to my blog and to another blog I maintain for a different friend stationed in Iraq. I was surprised that John called me since their story, while identical, was independently sourced. I was impressed and thankful for the links, which helped my site traffic.

John even blogged about the story behind the story. Ed Cone posed some interesting questions about MSM and blogs at his blog and at the web site for a blog conference held a few days later. Ed's questions are still worth pondering now, and I wonder if the topic was discussed at the conference.

A month later, I posted about a friend whose company produces half the dog shows in the country, including the Westminster Kennel Club Show. The N&R ran a feature story about the company two weeks later. This time there was no link to or mention of my blog. I am pretty sure the idea for the story came from my blog, since that is what the reporter told my friend.

Like David Wharton, I wondered if it would have been appropriate for the N&R to give some credit to my blog for the Westminster story. Ultimately, I decided that my goal was to get the information about my friend into the public, and the N&R had advanced that cause in a way I never could. They also fleshed out the story, adding much more information than my initial post had provided.

Many of my posts are based on something I read or hear, often from the N&R. When I am able to link to a source that sparked the idea for my post, I do so. But that has always been an indigenous part of blogging.

I think there are times when it is appropriate for the N&R and other MSM to give credit to a blog or other source that might have sparked the idea for a story. And it is probably always an appropriate courtesy to get permission and give credit when using a post or excerpt.

But these actions are not necessarily ingrained yet in MSM. Information dissemination is changing rapidly, so we should cut them some slack as they come up to speed. The N&R has demonstrated repeatedly that they value the local blog community, and they have worked hard to be part of that community, rather than dominating it.

Only a year ago, it would have been almost ludicrous to suggest that the N&R would have sourced anything from a blog. Now they do, and they have brought our blog community national exposure that might or might have not occurred otherwise.

Let's give them time to adapt to the changing tides of information gathering. I am confident they will give credit when credit is due as normal SOP when all this blog/MSM interaction becomes more customary.


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