Why can’t we all just get along? We are a country that was founded on change. Without change, we would not be where we are today. But yes, change can be uncomfortable and most people don’t like it because it forces them to leave their comfort zone.
Old Versus New
It is difficult to find an industry more resistant to change than the printed media. While there are a few outlets that seem to embrace the change and the decided shift to digital technology. Earlier this year, The Baltimore Sun was criticized for ignoring a Baltimore County news story that was initially reported on the Towson Patch. Well, this time around it seems like it is our very own Capital Gazette that is not giving credit where credit is due–and maybe even falling down on the job.
The Paving Scam
On April 14, 2011, the Edgewater-Davidsonville Patch reported on a significant paving scam which took place in Davidsonville. The victim in this case contacted Patch (which should be noted is not a well staffed, well paid newsroom with tons of resources) because The Capital had no interest in reporting a scam that potentially could have cost her more than $60,000. According to the victim, The Capital said they were not interested since it was spring and paving scams were commonplace. But this was not the “paint it black and call it sealed for $100” scam, this was a $60,000 scam.
Armed with this information and photos supplied by the victim, Mitchelle Stephenson, Editor of the Edgewater-Davidsonville Patch, did some background work and provided the Anne Arundel County police with her findings on the suspect who was wanted in both North and South Carolina on similar charges. Subsequently, an Annapolis woman and a Lothian man contacted Patch with similar stories which was provided to police. This information, and police investigation ultimately led to the issuance of three arrest warrants and a press release from the Anne Arundel County Police warning residents of the scam, which we reported here on May 12th.
All of a sudden, on May 13th, The Capital was interested in this story and ran a front page article with the details without giving any credit to Patch. Despite that the police, specifically Det. Ottey in the Southern District and Det. Niebuhr with the Maryland Dept of Labor and Licensing, credited Patch with helping detectives crack this case, attribution went unmentioned.
Hardly seems fair does it?
Perhaps The Capital has a right to their animosity towards the Patch sites. After all, three local Patch Editors (Edgewater-Davidsonville, Severna Park, and Greater Annapolis) are former Capital employees and many of the Capital’s freelancers are also freelancing for the Patch sites. In fact, the Patch network boast some pretty impressive credentials for journalism in print, online, and broadcast.
Wake Up Calls
While they may sit in their newsroom amidst all of their resources chuckling at the “buffoonery” of the new media, including Patch, Eye On Annapolis and other hyper local media sites the fact remains that these entities are here to stay and are interested in working with The Capital, not against them. But only if they play nice in return.
The first wake up call for The Capital should have been when Paul Foer, who ran the now-defunct Annapolis Capital Punishment blog, broke the story that ended the chances for Zina Pierre to become the mayor of Annapolis. Another wake up call might have been when there was a significant hazardous materials spill on Route 50 just before Christmas which Eye On Annapolis broke. The Capital did not cover it until Tuesday since they do not staff the newsroom on Sundays. Or maybe they should have taken notice when Eye On Annapolis researched and discovered the questionable financial background of one of the proposed partners of the Market House.
Scratching Each Other’s Backs, Not Eyeballs
In an email sent to the Editor and News Editor of The Capital, Mitchelle Stephenson said:
Although Edgewater Patch has only been live for five months, whenever there has been a story that The Capital has investigated/broken, and we’ve subsequently followed up on, we have given credit to the original source (and linked-back). Two instances I can think of off the top of my head include the AA Animal Control adoption rate investigation (Scott’s story) and a Saul Friedman item that I linked back to Earl’s story.
In any event, I just wanted to express my disappointment that The Capital couldn’t follow those same journalistic standards in crediting Edgewater Patch about the paving scammer.
The Capital only offered a weak response:
I’m not sure our staff was conscious of Patch’s scoop. The first alert was from the police.
Certainly a newspaper that claims to be the “oldest in the nation” monitors other local news sources. I know we do. I am sure Patch does. I know the Baltimore Sun does as well as the Washington Post and the television network affiliates. Considering that the story was handed to The Capital by the victim and they took a pass, and then was reported in detail by the Edgewater-Davidsonville Patch, this seems like a cop out.
I will echo Mitchelle’s concerns. On the few times that The Capital has had to reference Eye On Annapolis, a link is never provided. A recent article by Eric Hartley was dedicated to the “new media” including Patch and Eye On Annapolis and did not offer a link. Seems kind of strange since both are 100% online sources. In fact, my profile for commenting on Hometown Annapolis (The Capital’s online version) seems to have been tweaked to not allow me to post links in a comment. In the world of blogs, facebook, twitter, and new media, it is good manners to share the love and link back.
What The Capital may not realize is that today’s media consumer likes to receive their information in any number of ways. The Capital is no longer the sole source of news in the County. Some people like to check out the Annapolis Sound for some of their in depth analysis of political issues. Others like the hyper hyper local style of the Patch sites. Still others appreciate the broader reach of Eye On Annapolis since we reach out to facebook (35,000 fans), twitter (4,700 followers), newsletters (2,000 subscribers) and the site itself (almost 60,000 people/month). There is nothing wrong with that. I assume that some staffers at The Capital buy Starbucks, some buy Dunkin’ Donuts, and others will go to Zü Coffee–does that make any of those coffee shops any less of a coffee shop?
By linking back and forth to each other, we strengthen each other. At Eye On Annapolis, we aggregate news, offer opinion, highlight events, etc. For more detailed information, should our readers want it, we provide links to the source. It might be nice if The Capital returned the favor. It might be even nicer if The Capital modified their online content for the scamming article and gave Patch the proper credit. What do you think? Pipe dream?
PS: And if The Capital really wants brownie points, get rid of the paywall. If there is a similar story that is on The Capital and another source, we usually will link to the other source since the links will live on forever. The Capital paywalls the stories after about a month and requires people to buy an archive account to access them. And nothing ticks off a reader than following a dead link.