Bloggers need to respect old media

Updated 3:17 p.m. April 23, 2009

I was in Baltimore this weekend, which is fitting, considering some of the news that came out of the Charm City last week.

From Wired magazine blog Epicenter:

The Tribune-owned Baltimore Sun issued Jeff Quiton of Inside Charm City a cease-and-desist letter claiming that Quinton has been republishing “substantial portions” of The Sun’s content, and because the infringement was willful, Quinton could face up to $150,000 per violation in addition to lawyers fees.

The Sun took issue with Quiton copying large portions of their stories, though the suit added they don’t have a problem with a headline and a graf being used by bloggers if links are included.

It’s another case of old media taking on new media. And I am completely on the side of old media on this one.

Though I think its name is an embarrassing ode to a New York City mega-blog, Phawker is inevitably one of the big players on Philadelphia’s blog scene. The common swipe at Phawker is that much of their content is stolen – regurgitated news from the Inqy, AP and others.

I hasten to add that Phawker makes it a point to have reported columns, like Gaydar and media reviews from Paperboy, but, you know, the criticism is mostly fair. I fume when I see shit like this, where it’s hard to see what is the blogger’s and what is the reporter’s writing, and the only link is a miniscule “More” at the end of the graf.

Phawker’s natural rival is Philebrity, and we’re in about year three of their bitter divide. I’d venture to say that Philebrity does less real  reporting (Update) and may be getting more than doubled in traffic by Phawker but one reason I think they’re winning the blog war gaining more cultural recognition in particular trendy Philadelphia communities is they do not regurgitate news from other publications. It almost certainly will be obnoxious ( and usually hilarious), but Philebrity gives added value, through their analysis, and offers solid links out to their sources.

Here’s where I agree with the Baltimore Sun. Fuck bloggers who don’t give added value. They give a bad name to bloggers as a whole. A well-maintained blog should send traffic to news sources, not steal it.

Some rules I haven’t always lived by, but now maintain:

  1. Never quote more than one graf or 50 words of a feature, or one consistent thread of thought.
  2. You can paraphrase more, but never an article or argument’s entirety. Build on, don’t steal from.
  3. When paraphrasing or block-quoting, you have to give the source name.
  4. Give solid links out and, whenever possible, give a reason for your reader to follow that link. That’s the link economy.

I think Joey Jonathan Valenia, founder and editor of Phawker, is a smart enough guy and I mostly agree with his take on journalism school, but I don’t think his news stories regurgitated from media is fair.

Content aggregators and disseminators are in a higher-profit business now than content-creators, but it’s important for those bloggers to remember what they’d be without folks who are really covering the news.

Any other rules I’ve missed? What do you think about varied blog styles?

4 thoughts on “Bloggers need to respect old media”

  1. I’m not sure what reasoning you used to conclude that Philebrity is “winning the blog war” considering that accoring to Quancast Phawker does more than three times as much traffic. Also, in cultivating new voices Valania has let a lot of people (like me) who are largely ignored by the (arguably shitty) old media we’re supposed to respect have an outlet for writing that otherwise would have went unpublished. Every series I have done for Phawker was at some point prior to running on the website pitched to a local newspaper and ignored. Yet, the results, when published on Phawker, are almost unanimously praised by other local writers and journalists. For example:

    I honestly don’t think that what Phawker does is very much different from the Huffingtonpost or any other aggregator site that also has original content. If the budget was there for more original content, there would be, and maybe some day there will be. But, in all, I think Jon and I and the other contributors to Phawker are pretty happy with what we’ve been able to do. Most of us do it in our spare time in addition to our full time jobs, and on basically zero budget.

    So think about that. I’ve done what a lot of people consider to be some of the best reporting in the city on top of a hectic full time job as a social worker. In the meantime, the Inquirer has produced very little by way of compelling content with a full time staff and a budget magnitudes of order larger. And also in the meantime, Philebrity was dick to a bunch of people and made fun of Byko for the fiftieth time. If that’s winning the blog war, apparently we are not on the same battlefield.

  2. Jeff:
    You’re right. I’ve made changes and softened the language. I’m impressed with the traffic for Phawker that Quantcast is reporing ( versus

    Your work, which I know well, is a perfect example of the solid reporting that Phawker does do — and the old media in this city doesn’t, as it falls behind even more in covering the actual city.

    As I wrote in the post, I always defend that Phawker does more real, significant reporting. But as a reader of both sites, it so frustrates me to see the grab and post newsing on Phawker, which I think is the worst of blogging.

    Joey will always add value to news on Philebrity — it’ll be obnoxious, but he adds something. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen him post more than a full graf and gives out good links to everyone, old media often included.

    Old media is awfully important, and I wish blogs would respect that more. Philebrity included, but Phawker, definitely a prime example of what I think is often done wrong.

    Still, I enjoy Phawker and Jon’s work, he’s most certainly smart enough to bring on you and others. I hope you understand my position. Best,

  3. — Phawker does not steal from or disrespect Old Media. I spent 15 years in the trenches of Old Media, some of my best friends are still there. All content on Phawker is CLEARLY sourced/linked and our intent is to spread news and information we deem important as far and wide as possible while connecting the dots to other aspects of the story reported previously here or elsewhere. This is what New Media is supposed to do.

    — Bloggers aren’t killing newspapers, clueless/greedy newspaper management is killing newspapers.

    — As for commenting on/adding to said content, we largely eschew the tired and tedious “I think this about that…” bloggerel, instead we let our headlines and choice of accompanying artwork/photographs do the editoralizing for us. Frankly, I think Old Media is its own worst enemy when it comes to headline writing and accompanying artwork. For example, the Phawker post about Ed Snider that made you ‘fume’ featured a photoshopped picture of Snider tinted satanic-red and a header that said: Snider Contribution Suspected Of Buying Off Member Of House Gaming Oversight Committee. The Inquirer had NO accompanying photo or artwork and a snooze-inducing headline that read: Snider Contribution Under Investigation. I wonder, which headline would make you more likely to read the story? In addition, we packaged it with an Attytood post about Snider’s hard-right politics, a link to coverage of Snider inviting Sarah Palin to drop the puck at a Flyers game, and another detailing Snider’s generous contribution to the hawkish Freedom’s Watch.

    — After more than 5,000 posts, Phawker has NEVER received a complaint or a CEASE AND DESIST from any media outlet regarding our use of their content.

    — Not sure why you are embarrassed by the fact that the name Phawker is a Philly-centric bastardization of the name Gawker, but we take blog-naming criticism from people that call their blog CHRISTOPHER WINK with a very small grain of salt.

    — Let the record show that Phawker content is roughly 50% news aggregation from outside news sources — re-contextualized with editorializing headlines and artwork (SEE #2) — and 50% original content, interviews, reporting and critiques. This includes, Aaron Stella’s GAYDAR column, Laura Yacoe’s STYLE COUNCIL, Egina Manachova’s CINEPHILE, Jeff Deeney’s TODAY I SAW/VALLEY OF THE SHADOW, Adam Bonanni’s I, GAMER, Dave Allen’s PAPERBOY, movie reviews by DAN BUSKIRK and music coverage (record reviews, concert previews/reviews and artist Q&A) by Ed King, Chris Zakochemny, Michael Donovan, Dianca Potts and Kylee Messner.

    — As for who is winning the Philly Blog Wars, note that according to Quantcast Phawker’s traffic has doubled is the last year, Philebrity has been flatlining and is currently trending downward. Currently, Phawker (10,000 monthly visitors) is attracting THREE TIMES AS MANY monthly visitors as Philebrity (3,000 monthly visitors). You can check it out yourself by clicking HERE ( To date Phawker has generated ONE MILLION page views from roughly 500,000 unique readers. If and when CHRISTOPHER WINK reaches comparable numbers, we will start taking your insights into New Media a little more seriously. Until then, stick to backpacking, son.

    — Lastly, my name is JONATHAN VALANIA not JOEY VALENIA. Fact-checking, still the cornerstone of journalism in both Old and New Media.

  4. Jon:
    Thanks for the response. As noted above, I like very much the great work you put out on Phawker. I do take issue with some of the repackaging of old media. If you’ve never gotten a complaint from those folks, then you have nothing to worry about. I wouldn’t expect you to take me more seriously than a team of old media attorneys.

    I just thought you might care to know I’m not the only one who gets a little bummed at the grab and post of news.

    I’ll keep enjoying what you do put out, though. Best of luck Jon, and yes, I know it’s Jon, even old media runs a typo or two. See you around.

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