“… and then the newspaper just reprinted a story from our web site … without asking!”

Here’s something that crossed my desk last week. I’ve removed the names to protect the innocent, and the not-so-innocent, but I’d love to hear from journalists on this issue.

A local news web site wrote a story that appeared on their site recently. Then, a local newspaper – we’ll call them The Paper — took the story off the original web site and copied it verbatim onto their own site. They attributed the story to the original media outlet but …

  • The Paper didn’t link back to the original site that researched, wrote and published the story.
  • They didn’t ask the original web site for permission to use their story.
  • They offered no compensation to the creator of the story.
  • To make matters worse (in my opinion) The Paper then had the story that they’d taken without permission available for sale in their own online archives! (It was available for a few days, but they seem to have finally deleted it.)

When the web site publisher/owner called them on this, The Paper blamed it on a young, inexperienced reporter. It never made it to their print edition and was removed from the online edition as well.

The web site asked for an apology and sent The Paper an invoice for compensation. The Paper argued against paying anything of course.

A representative from The Paper said that writers like to have the circulation numbers for their articles and seemed to imply that they were doing the web site a favor. The problem is that when you cite a story from an online news outlet, the appropriate thing to do is just tease the story and then provide a link back to the originator’s site to read the full piece. That way the outlet that did the work and wrote the story gets the site clicks and traffic.

So, journalists, what’s your opinion on this? Did The Paper have the right to do what they did?

Could any for-profit news operation just take a story from USA Today and put it on their site and in their print editions without permission?  Don’t wire services charge for that option?

Mitch Leff is The Atlanta PR Guy.  He’s the president of Leff & Associates Public Relations (www.leffassociates.com), an Atlanta-based PR agency.  Leff also operates Leff’s Atlanta Media (www.leffsatlantamedia.com) an online database with contact info for thousands of Atlanta-based journalists, and Mitch’s Media Match (www.mitchsmediamatch.com) a service that connects Atlanta journalists with local experts and sources.

Contact him at mitch@leffassociates.com, (404) 861-4769, on Twitter (@mitchleffpr), or on Facebook.

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1 Response to ““… and then the newspaper just reprinted a story from our web site … without asking!””


  1. 1 World's oldest GSU senior June 21, 2014 at 3:26 pm

    Good question, Mitch, and thanks for blogging about it.
    I do like your idea of teasing to the original, with a link, and then adding additional reporting as needed. The original reporting was most likely copyrighted by the writer or the website, so reprinting it in its entirety would be unprofessional and in a perfect world, subject to compensation as well.


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