News that former House Speaker Dean Cannon is starting a lobbying firm (along with former Speaker Larry Cretul and former Agency for Workforce Innovation head Cynthia Lorenzo) is one of those inside-baseball stories that members of the Capitol Press Corps scramble over each other to break.
That’s why when I nailed down the details of Cannon’s ambitions, relying on unique sources no other reporters had, I knew I had the makings of a blog post sure to drive a lot of traffic to my site.
With this story, I actually played Reporter for a moment, almost going so far as to don an old pair of jeans, blue checked shirt and shitty tie, just so I would look like my contemporaries in the newsroom.
I contacted several mutual associates of Speaker Cannon to ask them to get me in contact with him about the story. We eventually worked out an arrangement in which I would hold off on publishing the story until after the November elections because Cannon wanted to fulfill his duties as Speaker until the very last day. I agreed to this with only one caveat: that I would be the one who broke the news.; if a reporter came sniffing around, I would get a heads-up to run my story.
On November 8, I published my post and was credited by several outlets, including the News Service of Florida and Tampa Bay Times, for breaking the story. All was well and good in the blogosphere.
Now, before I go any further, let me state upfront that I have a flexible relationship with the rules of attribution. That’s both the advantage and disadvantage of being new media. However, I believe in my heart of hearts that I try to give credit where credit is due.
Yes, I aggregate, like almost every blogger does. But the point of that aggregation is to drive traffic to the original source, so I never clip so much of a story that it’s no longer worth visiting the original source. In fact, it’s my intent to craft my aggregation to be enough of a tease to drive readers to click to view the full story.
One practice I don’t believe in is “re-reporting” — the crutch of far too many so-called veteran journalists. This is when a story is broken via one outlet and a reporter for another outlet simply goes back to the original source of the story and re-reports what was discussed by the first outlet.
This practice is what traditional journalists do every time they regurgitate what they first read from a new media source. IT HAPPENS ALL THE TIME.
Traditional reporters are rarely called out for this because they usually don’t do it to each other. If the Sun-Sentinel re-reports something from the Tampa Bay Times, the reporter typically laces in a note of attribution, if for no other reason than to cover their ass.
I long ago gave up my Quixotic quest to receive credit for every news item first published on this blog. Doing so nearly drove me mad — or at least out of the blogging business. Traditional reporters so frequently lifted material from my site that I was spending most of the day tracking down reporters to beg for credit from media outlets which were barely treading water in the first place.
So I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb.
Instead of nipping at the heals of traditional reporters, I created Sunburn to highlight their best work and email many of them my blog posts so that they will write about stories I scoop. My blood pressure, accordingly, is certainly better for it. My satisfaction comes when cashing the checks advertisers pay because the blog is can’t miss. Hence, I live well and don’t wear blue checked shirts and shitty ties.
This all said, the lack of credit given for breaking the news about Cannon starting a lobbying firm is so glaring that it deserved this rant.
Actually, veteran reporter Bill Cotterell was the first to write about Cannon’s move while omitting where the news originated. I was surprised at this because Bill and I have at least a working relationship. And it’s outside of Cotterell’s character to not give credit, especially if its owed to a traditional media outlet.
I discussed with Cotterell’s his sin of omission and his answer — about an editor asking him to track the story down without the editor saying where he first read it — was certainly plausible, so he was quickly forgiven.
Not forgiven is the Orlando Sentinel’s editorial board, which today writes, “As the Sentinel reported this week, former Speaker Dean Cannon, the Winter Park Republican whose two-year term as the state House’s presiding officer ended this month, wasted no time in hanging out his shingle.”
Actually, ed. board writers, the Sentinel did not report this, it re-reported it.
If by reporting it, you mean, your journalists saw what was written elsewhere and put it in their own words, then yes, the Sentinel reported it. But if you mean, an inquisitive mind with a unique set of political sources tracked down a juicy tidbit about the most prominent politician in your backyard, no, the Sentinel did not report this.
Don’t get me wrong, the Sentinel reporters who wrote about Cannon — I believe it’s Aaron DeSlatte and Jason Garcia — are not at fault here. I respect their work and aggregate it often (Garcia did yeoman’s work covering the recount of the results in House District 29); it’s the Sentinel editorial writers who are at fault.
Yet, how can I blame them when this is the modus operandi of an entire industry?