There are things I want to do this curiously hazy Friday afternoon. Writing this post is not one of them. But it touches upon something I myself have experienced twice this month: a web site being used as a source for a print publication story without proper citation. Plagiarism. Thankfully this latest “incident” does not involve yours truly. You see, another thing I dislike doing is sending angry missives to people who have profited from my work. Nonetheless I feel compelled to pass this item along as it is one of— if not the most— flagrant examples of outright plagiarism I have encountered to date.
For some time, the New York Post has notoriously been ripping off blogger Miss Heather over at New York Shitty. She writes about neighbors angry at ice-cream truck noise, a day later, the Post is on the scene. She writes about weird graffiti, bam, there’s the Post with an “exclusive.” In that case, the journalist huffily defended himself saying that because he went to the scene and did his own research, that counts as an exclusive.
This is the Post’s MO. They take a blogger’s story, add their research, and call it their own, without ever crediting the blogger. Maybe they figure, Eh, who reads blogs anyway, especially way out there in Brooklyn?
What is this latest “exclusive”, you ask? Very simple: a darkly entertaining tome about neighbors acting anything but neighborly. In this tale of noise, drunkenness and yes, Conway Twitty, we learn about the dysfunctional relationship between the patrons of the Cooper Square Hotel’s outdoor patio and the people who have the misfortune of living not only an earshot— but also a arm’s length from them and their apparently endless banter. The following are excerpts from Vanishing New York’s “Volumes I & II of Notes From the Backside” to give you a better grasp of the situation:
From Volume I, dated May 19:
…got to try the megaphone this week. About 2 am a drunk woman came out to the patio and wondered at its beauty. I pulled out the megaphone and said in a store announcer kind of voice â€œAttention Cooper Square Hotel douchebags: shut the hell up and get off the patio.â€
Didnâ€™t work. She said â€œThat makes my new york experience completeâ€ and continued to yammer away. The hotel made a half-hearted effort to get her out of there.
From Volume II, dated May 26:
We had a delicious victory yesterday. We saw that the hotelâ€™s co-owner was sitting on the patio a few feet from our window. We put our speakers at the window.
But what to play?
The un-coolest thing we could come up with was Roger Miller and Conway Twittyâ€™s greatest hits. Then we put on this vile, 7-minute comedy routine about a prostitute and a banana. And set it to repeat.
While highly entertaining this does not strike me as being the kind of thing that can or should qualify as an “exclusive” in a paper of record. But this is exactly what happened. Try this quote from the Post’s article on the subject (which went to print yesterday, May 28) on for size:
One resident, armed with a megaphone, leaned out his window and greeted a patron who strayed out on the patio after it was closed. When that didn’t work, he placed the megaphone next to a stereo speaker and shared a crude comedy skit.
Isn’t this more or less the same thing, albeit in less detail? Similarities abound between Vanishing New York’s coverage of this story and the Post’s article. Enough so that both City Room and Gothamist have taken note. The latter called the Post’s exclusive:
a shameless jack of original reporting
I am inclined to agree— or at the very least the timing and similarity of content demand an explanation. In closing I would like to pass along the following thoughts/observations:
- In the interest of fairness I eventually did get an apology of sorts from the reporter who wrote about Greenpoint’s “Nazi” graffiti.
- It was from this reporter I learned that the editorial staff elected to call his story an exclusive, not him.
- The previous brings me to a point I have been woefully remiss in making so I will do so here and now: to merely blame the reporters for lifting material from blogs is incredibly short-sighted and naive. It is all too clear this practice is sanctioned, if not out rightly encouraged, by their higher ups. In other words this is an institutional problem.
- I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: there are real stories to be followed up on out there, why this one? This is not to “pooh pooh” what the neighbors of the Cooper Square Hotel are experiencing— I understand their plight all too well. \But given the recent uptick in violence against homeless people and “crusties” at Tompkin’s Square Park— and the print media’s reluctance to report about it— I have to wonder where their priorities are. Actually I don’t have to wonder too much— it’s all about the numbers: they publish stories they think the public will read (so as to boost their circulation and reap more advertising revenue). If we didn’t read it, they would not publish it. Thus the story of a 26 year old woman who dies as a result of “wilding” in the East Village slides by and we read an amusing tale of neighbors at war instead. If you ask me this is a pretty damning indictment of not only the print media— but also the values espoused its readership. Yes, that means you and me.
- Ideally I envision reporters/print publications partnering with neighborhood blogs (inasmuch as I hate using the previous term) and generating some wonderful stories. Ideally. Frankly I do not see this happening anytime soon because the print media as a whole treats its online brethren (yes, brethren) with nothing short of cynical contempt. And if my experience over the last three years of writing New York Shitty and interfacing with other “bloggers” is any indication, the feeling is mutual.
- If anyone afflicted by the noise of the Cooper Square Hotel is reading this: try bagpipe music— just like Colt 45 it works every time!