When the source who first sent me a copy of the invitation to a $25K-a-head private ‘gator hunt’ fundraiser to benefit Rick Scott’s re-election committee, I knew what had been sent was, to quote Kenny Bania, “gold!”
The prospect of the governor collecting five-figure checks for the privilege of hunting gators with him was so far-fetched that this source was not sure if they were being set-up as some sort of elaborate ruse to flush out any major donors to Scott not 100% loyal to Scott.
So I had to sit on the story until the source grew more comfortable with publicly releasing the information. Only after the information was triple-checked, a process which included several third-parties RSVPing for the event to the email and phone number listed on the invitation, did the source greenlight the story. From start to finish, this process took more than two weeks.
I knew the moment I hit “PUBLISH” on the content management system behind SaintPetersBlog.com, the story would go semi-viral. And it did. It was picked up by The Huffington Post, MSNBC, and POLITICO. Traffic to the site for the story really spiked when Rachel Maddow touted it.
Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times was the first Florida-based political reporter to tweet about it. Because Smith is a selective tweeter, when he posts something it draws a lot of attention. Not soon after Smith tweeted about the story, Tallahassee bureau chief Steve Bousquet blogged about it on the Buzz. Bousquet cited SaintPetersBlog as the source for the story in the first paragraph of that post, something he’s rarely done in the past when he’s, um, re-reported stories of mine. Of course, the Luddite in Bousquet prevented him from including a valuable hyperlink, but, oh well, it was nice of Bousquet to reference this blog.
Yet, by the time Bousquet’s story made its way to print the attribution to SaintPetersBlog was gone. This makes the story read as if Bousquet himself bird-dogged the original, well-placed source for an invitation to the unusual fundraiser.
In fact, Bousquet’s story cites pretty much everyone else who breathed about the story — HuffPo, The Miami New Times, Paula Dockery’s Twitter account — but not the original source.
My critics often jab me for playing fast-and-loose with the rules of traditional journalism, including those related to attribution. I don’t think this criticism is fair and I point to Sunburn — my morning email about what’s hot in Florida politics — as a perfect example of how I actually enjoy highlighting the work of others and do my best to drive traffic to their work without aggregating so much that there’s no point to view the original story.
Other critics poke me for being too sensitive about wanting credit for stories which may, in fact, first appear on my blog but were developed by other reporters independently. I get that, but that is not what’s happened here.
I had a great source give me a tidbit of very interesting information. I reported about it. The story went viral. Steve Bousquet reported about it and originally cited me. But either he or his editors made a conscience decision to leave out the attribution for the print edition.
And that’s just horsesh*t.