I only caught the tail end of this controversy on Twitter yesterday afternoon, but it was a very important one as I feel like this was a classic example of certain problems bloggers still have to hurdle.
To briefly recap, Joe Burkel (of RedWingsGuy.com, I feel dirty just throwing his link out there, but it needs to be known he is the offender) committed one of the cardinal rules of ANY type of journalism: plagiarizing. He blatantly copied DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose’s article on the recalling of Gustav Nyquist and pasted it to his site without credit or a link. Unacceptable, right?
While it’s not to say what he did was completely wrong and should be pushed aside, I think what also was important was the Twitter conversations that were had after this incident took place. As I said, I was late to the party, but I did get to participate in a little bit of conversation with Roose and the guys at Winging It In Motown. This is what I got out of it.
1. Plagiarizing is wrong. Obviously. That goes without saying. I have never read any of Burkel’s stuff before (sounds like that was a good decision by yours truly) but I hear it’s not the first time he’s done something like this. To you, sir, in all caps: COPYING SOMEONE’S WORK AND NOT CREDITING THEM IS WRONG. It just is. It’s common sense. I'm 17 years old and understand that. What drives someone to do that? Laziness? Lack of writing skills? A combo? Part of me just doesn’t understand...but the other part of me realizes he probably just wanted page views quickly. It’s still wrong. Wrong wrong wrong.
2. He was held accountable. This is very important. It seems like almost immediately he was called out on his actions. Red Wings bloggers and some of Roose’s mainstream media pals were on the same team, and as Roose said, Burkel was “dealt with swiftly.” Accountability is huge in the journalism world, especially in today’s new media style of doing things. As I mentioned to Roose and J.J., it sucks that we have to end up talking about this guys’ blog (although it is negative attention) while the other great ones might sometimes sit there, but a positive one can take out of that is that usually awareness of the issue is raised quickly.
One of Roose’s points was that in the mainstream media environment, an act such as this will get you fired. It’s a completely fair and relevant one. I think I would make the argument that although nothing compares to losing a job, especially in this economy, a journalist being held accountable is similar to what losing a solid reputation means to a blogger.
3. MSM/Bloggers. What I talked about in the last paragraph was brought up between J.J., myself, and Roose in the Twitter convo. Both made great points, and what I liked about it was that it wasn’t a typical “mainstream vs bloggers” debate. It was between two parties that were on the same side, sticking up for what’s right, while making points that bring more credibility to both sides.
Without talking about the economics of it, J.J. brought up a good point by saying, “It's something that bloggers have to be sensitive to as much as MSM.” While for the MSM it is their job, he is right in the fact that bloggers do need to police themselves, just as the MSM would do.
Take this instance for example. It’d be so easy for a MSM member to look at this and generalize all Red Wings blogs just because one thief did something stupid. Thankfully, Roose did not, and I knew he would not, because after listening to him talk back in March at Red Wings High School Journalist Day, he’s very educated on the new wave of media and seemed eager to partake in the changes that have already come. That’s why it’s so important that, in this case, the bloggers did police themselves. Because unfortunately, if one goes down, the rest possibly could go down with it, and that’s not right.
Roose even told me his intention wasn’t to lump everyone together with Burkel. That in and of itself is why the “self-policing” of bloggers is important and why it must continue.
I guess if I were to make one point about this whole thing, it’d be that. It’s something I never really thought about until J.J. brilliantly defended it today. The relationship between the MSM and bloggers can continue to grow as long as that continues to happen.