Archive for October, 2006


Conflict of Interest or Oversight?

Recently, the New York Times ran a correction about an article that appeared on environmentally friendly homes. The correction had nothing to do with the article, but everything to do with the freelance writer who reported it. The writer, it seems, failed to disclose on her contract that she had performed writing work for an organization. One of her sources quoted in the article had donated money to the same organization.

Many questions arise from such an appearance of conflict of interest for independent journalists. Many of us have donated our time, working pro-bono for pet causes. On short months, when there isn’t enough freelance journalism work to pay the bills, we’ve also had to take work outside of journalism. We know what causes we’ve worked for and we know what companies we’ve accepted work from, but we also know (or at least we should) know to stay away from those entities when we’re back to doing our love of reporting.

Are we now expected to know what causes our sources are associated with?

What do you think? Is this about an independent reporter not disclosing all of her work or is it about being expected to know what causes your sources support?

Has this futher tarnished the reputation of independent journalists?

See the full correction here: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/29/pageoneplus/corrections.html?_r=2&oref=slogin&oref=slogin

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Ogle Your Google

How often do you “google” yourself? Or have you even thought of it? You should be googling yourself for more reasons that giving your writing ego a boost. I received a note a few weeks back from a member who googled herself and found an article she wrote illegally posted to a website. She wrote to me wondering what she should do.

I told her it really depends on the situation. She first must determine if she owns the copyright (hopefully so). Copyright violation is never ok, but I first evaluate my article to determine if it has reslant and resell potential. If it does, I send a letter to the contact on the website advising them that they are in violation of the copyright and I ask them to remove the article. This usually does the trick. If it doesn’t, I send a letter advising I will seek further remedy – I’ve never had to.

If I don’t believe I can sell the article elsewhere, I send a letter advising them of my fee to use the article for a period of 12 months on their site, with directions to send payment. The other option is to remove it. In rare instances, if it is a charitable organization using my article, I will send them a letter advising them of the copyright violation, but allowing permission to continue to use the article.

For the types of articles I write with local and regional interest, as well as local business angles, I mainly find the people violating my copyright are the subjects of the stories or the businesses I’m writing about. At first it was hard for me to write a business and tell them they couldn’t use an article about them in their promotional materials, but then I realized if they were to commission an article from a PR firm, it would cost them a lot more than my user fee.

So, what do you do? Do you ogle your google and if so, how do you respond when you find copyright violations of your work?

Hit the comment button and get in on the conversation.

Coming soon…Lots of great news for SPJ’s Independent Journalists!

Happy Writing,

Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell

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