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Blog launches on-line boycott of Variety, claims plagiarism

July 2, 2008

One of the movie blogs that I read regularly, the aptly-titled TheMovieBlog.com, featured a rant from its editor, in which he encouraged movie bloggers and the readers of his blog to boycott Variety, essentially the New York Times of show business news.

What I find interesting about the editor’s argument is that he says that blogs, like his, often credit other sources for stories it gets and provides backlinks to them to help drive traffic to the person who broke the story but Variety, he claims, isn’t doing the same. Without getting into specifics, the editor accuses Variety of basically passing off the content of various movie blogs, including his own, as its own. If this is true, this is an ethics nightmare for a news source as reputable as Variety, however, being a journalist, I have a few questions that might help put the editor’s call for a Variety boycott into perspective:

  • Is Variety re-publishing, word for word, the content of bloggers? If so, that’s a deplorable practice. If they are taking an idea that they get from a blog and doing their own reporting on it, that’s media, folks. It happens all the time with television and newspapers. A newspaper will break a story and a couple days later, quelle surprise, an eerily similar story will appear on the nightly news. I’ve had anchors read my copy, almost word-for-word over stories that they produced. It sucks, It’s frustrating but that’s what happens when you become a media producer. You’re producing media that lots of other people are seeing, including your competitors. Take the story of the Gloucester, Mass. teenage pregnancy pact. The newspaper in Gloucester had been working that story since March before Time broke the story nationally with a story of its town. I bet they’d like a little credit for that story but if Time did its own reporting, they probably won’t get any and that’s life
  • Have they tried contacting an editor at Variety? If you’re accusing a news source of plagiarism, that’s bad news for the paper and even worse news for the reporter doing it. Give Variety a call. Newspapers don’t take these kinds of things lightly.

UPDATE:  Sent an e-mail to John Campea, editor of TheMovieBlog, who referred me to a couple of other movie blog editors. I hope to have an update on this story tomorrow.

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