The Internet: Transforming Journalism

by Ruth Ronnau

I love the Internet. I grew up with it and could not imagine life without it; I’m probably not exaggerating when I say that I spend the majority of my day using it—for my classes and for pleasure.

But yesterday, I was reading articles written about the website, “Betches Love This,” from both The New York Times and Cosmopolitan’s online magazine.

After reading both articles, I felt like they had sounded too similar. It was almost eerie how similar both of the articles sounded, although Cosmopolitan’s was much more conversational in tone. Looking back and forth between the articles, I noticed that there was the same quote in both of the articles.

In The New York Times, writer Hannah Seligson quotes a professor from Vanderbilt University.

A screenshot of The New York Times article, "Laughing all the Way to the Bank," by Hannah Seligson.

A screenshot of The New York Times article, “Laughing all the Way to the Bank,” by Hannah Seligson.

A screen shot of the article, "Who are these 'Betches'?!" from Cosmopolitan's online edition.

A screen shot of the article, “Who are these ‘Betches’?!” from Cosmopolitan’s online edition.

Now, there isn’t a byline for the writer of the Cosmopolitan article, and they may have done their own reporting. But from the looks of it, it seems unlikely.

The Internet has changed how news organizations function — from the way their writer’s write them and how they market themselves. The immediacy of the Internet forces news organizations to keep up with the public’s demand for information. But even so, taking another writer’s work, without their permission and without a citation crosses the ethical line of journalism.

It also raises the question, how often does this occur in this new age of digital media? Are journalists so pressed for time that they are willing to forget their ethics?

Or does the writer not understand that taking quotes from another news sources without attribution and permission is considered plagiarism? The articles were posted in June 2013 with Cosmopolitan’s posted two days later, and no one has noticed the similarities or said anything about it.

How did no one notice? How did an editor at Cosmopolitan not notice the similarities and the unnamed source and allow the article to be published on their website? Their credibility as a source of factual information is in question.

The Internet has already transformed the world so completely, making collaboration with individuals across the world almost instantaneous. But is this collaboration, or stealing?

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2 responses to “The Internet: Transforming Journalism

  1. I work at an online magazine in the entertainment section. I understand where Cosmo was coming from- they wanted their own piece on something news worthy, but the only access to information they had in such a short window was news that had already been reported.

    I have found myself in the same circumstances with online reporting. For instance, if I’m doing a piece about a celebrity, and there is a quote pertinent to the story, I don’t exactly have the credentials to call them up and ask for their opinion, and in the time frame it would take to do my own reporting, the story would no longer be news.

    What my editor instructed me to do is to use the other information, but let the readers know where it came from, and link back to the original source. I think Cosmo’s little online article could have at least mentioned they got a hefty chunk of their information from NYT.

  2. I agree. I understand that with the Internet reporting needs to be done quickly, but the person that wrote the article didn’t do what you would have done. They simply took the quote without attributing to anyone. Thanks for commenting!

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