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So what are the rules?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Tucsondriver, May 19, 2009.

  1. Tucsondriver

    Tucsondriver Member

    Many SJ posters, including myself, expressed outrage at Maureen Dowd's blatent plagarism of a Talking Points Memo blogger. There's already a hot thread on that one that I don't intend to jack, but the whole incident raises questions about what in the real world constitutes plagarism. We all have our assumptions, but it's never really discussed. Our editors don't want to know we got Jimmy Jensen's betting average off maxpreps, but they sure as hell want Jimmy Jensen's batting average in the story. The fact that cutting and pasting text someone else has written is about as egregious as it gets doesn't need to be said. But we all obviously rely on the work of other journalists that aren't attributed to some extent. So what are the rules? I'm thinking preps coverage, but the rules are the rules, and I'd think the same rules would apply to covering presidential primaries. Quotes (unattributed) and game details are obvious no-nos, but what if you're doing a notebook or writing for a weekly, how do you feel about using stats/scores from maxpreps, or even competitor newspaper websites. My feeling is factual reportage is fair game once it's in the public domain, and you report it at your own risk. Do I feel dirty doing so? Yes.
  2. CCaple

    CCaple Member

    I don't think anyone would say that using scores and stats from Max Preps would constitute plagiarism, but that does raise an interesting point. I mean, would some of those scores be available to the public if they weren't reported on such a frequently visited Web site? I say they're fair game, also, but there may be a discussion there.

    My biggest thing is, is it that big of a deal to just attribute something if you took it from another publication? I'm mainly talking about notebooks here. It's not something you want to make common practice, obviously, and I know people don't want to look "bad" by having that ugly "Smith told the Podunk Press" in the attribution...but do readers really care? For Christ's sake, if you take a piece of information from someone else, say so. It's not that hard.
  3. Tucsondriver

    Tucsondriver Member

    Thanks CC. In anything but preps, I'd have no problem using the Podunk Press quote, and obviously attributing it. But I'd never use a quote (attributed or not) that appeared in a rival paper, and probably not in an out of town paper, the exception being local star running back charged in a double-homicide out of state.
  4. mediaguy

    mediaguy Well-Known Member

    It's an interesting thought as it relates to lifting basic information, as opposed to words verbatim. You'll see it a lot with prep stats in recruiting -- one site will get a kid's rushing yards wrong by exactly 100 yards -- like 1,827 instead of 1,927 -- and you'll see it picked up by lots of other publications that write on the kid.

    High school stats are so sketchy to begin with, but we probably should respect the work that goes into compiling them on the local level. It wouldn't be out of line to say "Joey Smith totaled 1,049 yards and 13 touchdowns, according to the Podunk Press."
  5. Some Guy

    Some Guy Active Member

    Numbers are always fair game. Even at the preps level. Odds are the Podunk Press got Joey Smith's rushing yardage from his coach, anyway.
  6. TheMethod

    TheMethod Member

    Haven't the rules always been this:

    Don't pass off someone else's words or ideas as your own.
    Nobody owns facts.

    What am I missing here?
  7. Mizzougrad96

    Mizzougrad96 Active Member

    Awhile back, I had a rare one-on-one with a coach I covered. He gave them rarely and I got one and after I ran a story afterwards, I saw a quote I got from him in three other papers, all unattributed.

    I asked one of the guys and he said, "Oh, I assumed it was a pool quote."

    Same answer from the other two.
  8. Tucsondriver

    Tucsondriver Member

    Of course it wasn't a pool quote. Total plagarism. I was more interested in what you think about using unattributed stats/scores.
  9. rpmmutant

    rpmmutant Member

    So what's the difference from using stats from MaxPreps and Google linking to every story ever written in every newspaper? Technically, both are in the public domain. Are Google and all the other news aggregators doing the same thing sportswriters do every day when they go to MaxPreps for stats and scores?
  10. playthrough

    playthrough Moderator Staff Member

    If you're going to do that once you'd have to do it every single time. Not very feasible.

    I agree that prep stats are proprietary on some level because they take real work to obtain, as opposed to pro stats you find online with two clicks, but I also think there's almost an unwritten rule among prep guys that they are always to be shared. I never turned down a phone call from another paper needing some stats for an advance, and I'd expect to not be questioned if I took stats from an archived story of theirs.
  11. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    I don't think you need to attribute stats unless they are unique and/or would have involved a great deal of effort to compile.

    For example, if some person or organization did research to show that certain pitchers do particularly well when the humidity is high, you should attribute that.

    If you are using stats from a website, you don't need to attribute them unless you are taking a whole team's worth of stats or something.
  12. GB-Hack

    GB-Hack Active Member

    In certain instances, and I know we are one of them, we set up the maxpreps accounts for our coaches to use, and sent them all usernames and passwords.

    So, in effect, we set the process in motion for our coaches to aggregate their stats online, instead of faxing them to us each week.
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