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Is the St. Pete Times’ Sandra Gadsden cribbing from ILovetheBurg.com?

in Peter/The Bay and the 'Burg by

Of the many useless tits-on-a-bull there are at the St. Petersburg Times, few are less useful (or is it more useless?) than Neighborhood Times editor Sandra Gadsden, who I believe regularly cribs — without attribution — from local blogs and websites.

Like many Times writers, Gadsden avoids criticism for this practice by simply “re-reporting” a story she originally read on a blog or website.  Here’s how it works, the reporter reads on a local website about a club or restaurant opening here or there and then, instead of offering a hat tip to the original report, will call the principal of the story and re-report the story.  Nevermind that Gadsden, with her limited sources, would not have learned about the development had she not read about it on Saint Petersblog or Eat St. Pete or ILovetheBurg.com or Facebook or Twitter.  It’s just — boom — in print and the world, or at least the world that reads the Neighborhood Times, thinks Gadsden is one helluva an enterprising reporter.

That could not be further from the truth.

Case in point — and this time Sandra, you’ve been caught red-handed with your hand in the blogging cookie jar — is a Facebook update that Gadsden wrote about the closing of Bella Brava restaurant.

Gadsden posted on Thursday at 8:58 a.m.:

I’m sure Bella Brava appreciated the plug.  Except for the fact that Gadsden got the date of the closing wrong.  How could she have gotten the date of the closing wrong?  After all, she wrote, “Dyce says…” referring to owner Dyce Craig.  The owner of the restaurant isn’t going to tell a reporter the wrong day of when his business is going to close, is he?

No, the reason why Gadsden got her date wrong is because she cribbed her information from local website ILovetheBurg.com, which, in its enthusiasm, posted the wrong information on Thurdsay at 8:56 a.m. — two minutes before Gadsden posted her update:

So what we have here is a reporter reading the update of a commercial, for-profit website (some would say an intellectual competitor of the Neighborhood Times) and then passing off the information as her own.  Worse she implies, with her use of the phrase “Dyce says…” that she spoke with one of the restaurant’s owners, who, by the way, were not happy with the announcement that all of the beer and wine had to go.  The owners were so displeased with this description that one of them, Mike Harting, said, in no uncertain terms, “Dyce did not speak with any reporter about the closing.”

But all of that is tangential to the fact that Gadsden cribbed the information from another for-profit commercial venture and passed off the information as her own.  Sure, many downtownians knew that Bella Brava was closing, but they knew it was closing Saturday, not Friday. Gadsden is busted here because when she cribbed, she cribbed some bad information.  (And, no she did not get the information from the Bella Brava site because they did not post a message reminding their Facebook friends about their closing until 9:26 a.m. that day.)

This whole mountain-out-a-molehill would not be such a big deal if this were the first time Gadsden had cribbed from a local site, but she consistently lifts material from my blog, from Eat St. Pete, from iLovetheBurg.com, and from several other Facebook and Twitter accounts.

And from a journalism standpoint, Gadsden’s writing that “Dyce says…” very much implies that she spoke to a source and is reporting his words.  Until I hear from Dyce otherwise, I have to assume Gadsden took editorial license where she should not have.

I can’t wait to see how the Times sloughs this off…

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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