Ethics in Journalism 101

I wasn't going to blog about my encounter with TMNJ, but the story took a puzzling turn.

Yesterday, I spent quite a while on the phone being interviewed by Paula Ward, a writer for the Post-Gazette, regarding a trademark lawsuit filed against a South Side video store. The store owner is accused of violating federal trademark law in his use of an image of one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (hence, TMNJ). This morning, the PG ran a large story under her byline, and I was quoted (accurately -- thank you!) several times. I doubt that the issue is important enough to warrant such a big spread -- this is really a garden variety trademark law dispute -- but there you are.

In an online posting later today, the Tribune Review simply copied -- there is no other word -- the Post-Gazette's reporting. Here's a link to the story: In it, the Trib uses -- verbatim -- a quote that I gave the PG, and that appeared in the PG's story this morning. Yet the Trib didn't call me to get a quote on their own. (The Trib didn't call me at all.) Audacious! Brazen, even! And for what? A story about turtles and trademarks? It's not as if Pittsburgh's fate hangs in the balance of disseminating the information. If you're going to copy something that you shouldn't, at least go large.

I don't care so much on my own behalf, since the quote that the Trib used was, after all, accurate to begin with. But the Trib simply eradicates whatever is left of journalistic ethics. This is worse than lazy; it's knowing appropriation of the PG's reporting. Folks in the PG newsroom might even call it sleazy.

UPDATED at 7:35 p.m. 5/03/07:

Sleazy gets sleazier. If you click on the Tribune Review link above (i.e.,, you'll see that the story carries an Associated Press byline. Yesterday, however, when the story was first posted, it carried a Tribune Review byline. There was no reference to the AP -- and yes, I looked. I also saved an electronic copy of the file, and I printed it out. If anyone cares enough to double check, I'd be happy to send you the file or a scanned copy of the original text.

In other words, the Trib went back and *changed* the original post to fix the attribution problem. There is no way to know whether this was done in response to my post above, but I saved the original file and printed a copy for a reason: at least once before, in my experience, the Trib has reached in and "corrected" the electronic record.


6 Responses to "Ethics in Journalism 101"

engdre said... 5/03/2007 6:29 AM

This is an AP story. So the Trib's ethics are as good as the Boston Herald's:

Trademark holder sues video store over Ninja Turtles mural
By Associated Press
Wednesday, May 2, 2007 - Updated: 01:02 PM EST

PITTSBURGH - Cowabunga, dude!
A video store owner is being sued by the company that holds the trademark to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, because he’s painted a mural featuring similar looking turtles on the side of his store and used the images in advertising fliers.
Mirage Studios Inc. of Northampton, Mass., which owns the trademark, filed the suit in federal court in Pittsburgh on Monday.

Mike Madison said... 5/03/2007 7:36 AM

Yet the Trib doesn't credit the AP. The story says "By The Tribune-Review."

Mike Madison said... 5/03/2007 8:05 AM

In fact, I Googled the story, and every other news outlet that picked it up credited (i) the AP or (ii) the Post-Gazette or (iii) both. Not so the Trib.

Anonymous said... 5/03/2007 6:10 PM

It says "The Associated Press" right at the top of the story. You're just wrong on this one Mike. Relax.

Mike Madison said... 5/03/2007 7:34 PM

No, I'm not wrong. I'll update the post and explain.

Jefferson Provost said... 5/08/2007 4:11 PM

Next time take a screenshot and post it.

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