Credit Where Credit Is Due

You know who deserves some credit? Jenn Rowell, that’s who!

Rowell is a former Tribune reporter who now runs The Electric, a local news site. Unfortunately, she seems a little upset with us today. This morning we ran a story about HUD coming down on various conflicts of interest within the city’s CDBG program. We pointed to information (including the letter from HUD, a public document) that was posted on Rowell’s website. Within minutes, Rowell took issue with us on our Facebook page:

It’s true! Rowell posted it before we did. She published yesterday and we ran our piece today. However, as stated above, we DID include a link from our post to her’s. Isn’t that what bloggers do? You link back to other sources. We even identified her publication, The Electric, by name in that very link. If Rowell’s complaint is that we did not specifically state that the public document itself was published by her first, then I will concede that she has a point. Our original post has been updated to reflect this. I will happily admit that she ran the document before anyone else, including us. It was never the intention of ECity Beat to suggest otherwise.

This sort of thing has happened to us, too, although in truly blatant fashion where our reporting received ZERO mention. A little over a year ago, we ran a story with an embedded YouTube video of Brett Doney saying some rather provocative things about our local economy. The following day, David Sherman of KRTV ran the exact same video. Did we get any credit? Of course not!

And that’s OK by me. Frankly, we’re not consumed with breaking news so much as we are with providing commentary. If someone else gets a story out there, great! We just want to talk about it. I’m much more interested in providing a platform for real DIALOGUE about local issues.

That said, we do want to get it right. We won’t piggyback on someone else’s reporting without at least linking back to their story. In this instance, we provided a link, but it could and should have been attributed better….. ie., in the form of a second link that exists now.

Rowell is right when she says that giving credit where it’s due is how things are done in the journalism business. I appreciate her for reminding us of that fact.

I can’t help but note, however, what a few of our readers took the time to remind me of earlier today: that WE were the ones who broke the CDBG story in the first place. As I read through The Electric’s archived content about the city and CDBG….. and I looked and looked….. I noticed that while a lot of the established facts were the same as what we had initially written, I didn’t see one iota of credit to ECity Beat for OUR original reporting anywhere, which as Rowell intones is “customary in the news business.” (In contrast, Trib reporter David Murray credited ECity Beat in his first article on the subject. Thanks David!)

Amusing ironies aside, I did want to address this issue, since a sincere effort was made to provide attribution. Could it have been executed better, and more precisely? Absolutely! Next time, we will.

Finally, I do want to say that Rowell (truly) breaks more news than anyone in Great Falls and on the whole she does good work. Her site is more newsy, ours is more of a blog. I think that, collectively, The Electric and ECity Beat provide a nice complement to the gaping hole that exists in traditional local media. And I sincerely hope everyone reads her site! The more sources out there, like her’s, to get our local government’s dealings out to the public, the better served we all are.

Now go read The Electric!

Philip M. Faccenda
Philip M. Faccendahttp://www.straymoose.com
Philip M. Faccenda is an AIA award-winning architect and planner. He is the Editor-in-Chief of E-City Beat.

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