Should the ethics of giving sources their due credit be different online compared to in print?
Arguably, they should not. Nevertheless, two stories seem to indicate that bad habits might be spreading.
Suzi Parker of Politics Daily reported how one of her scoops lost track of its original author in the huge world of Internet links. Politics Daily broke the story of how Sarah Palin trademarked her name and that of her daughter, Bristol Palin. The story - Parker highlights - was picked up by many websites, including Politico, The Atlantic Wire, Vanity Fair, Talking Points Memo and Mediaite. No problem so far, as all of these sites linked the original Politics Daily story and gave it credit.
Then Parker noticed something odd happened: Vanity Fair began getting credit for the story. "It was as if reporters weren't even reading the Vanity Fair piece -- and noting its reference to the original source -- but just copying and pasting the link into their stories", she said.
"In journalism, professional courtesy has been a long-standing tradition, and it still pays for reporters to check the accuracy of sources, whether they're writing for a newspaper or a blog. In other words, search for the original source. Not to so do isn't exactly unethical, but it is lazy and sloppy at best", Parker noted.
Why has the traditional rule of giving credit not applied when the story appears online and not in print?
Parker emailed some of the journalists who have mistaken the quotation asking for the correction, but she noted that not everyone was very eager to please.
Another similar story emerged in Baltimore. According to Inside Charm City blog, Patch.com published a story on KO Public Affairs, astroturfing, and speed cameras in Baltimore County.
Various blogs reported the story correctly referring to Bryan Sears as the journalist who unearthed the scoop. Baltimore Sun reporter Julie Scharper acknowledged this through her personal Twitter account.
Surprisingly, Inside Charm City reported, 48 hours after the original story broke, The Baltimore Sun published an article by Raven Hill on the KO Public Affairs story, without any reference to Patch, nor Sears as original news source and leaving out some essential background information about the original story.
As Sears responded through his Twitter account, "some times you just have to give credit when credit is due. Are you hearing me?"