they pay to kiss your feet

since there's no one else around, we let our hair grow long and forget all we used to know. then our skin gets thicker from living out in the snow.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

lazy reporting?

i was alerted yesterday, thanks to a comment from a columist at, that she used an excerpt from one of my unemployment blogs for a story that ran yesterday.

the excerpt she used was credited to me. however, she lead with,"Take, for example, the perspectives on unemployment emerging from the blogosphere. In this entry, a jobless woman from Kansas City hits bottom."

okay, i didn't hit bottom. i was depressed, yes. i was upset, true. but each day was different. some had brighter spots than others. and i think most of my loyal readers realize something: i am sarcastic. and while this post was honest, it was also a bit sarcastic. like the whole wanting to start drinking at noon thing, which she featured prominately.

i appreciate the credit, and the heads-up. but i would have rather been told before it published. and really, i mean, as a journalist (which i am), i would at least have attempted to contact the source prior to publishing. as a courtesy if nothing else. you know, what goes around comes around. you get what you give. that type of thing.

here's what she wrote.

what do you think?

also, she's happy to report i've found a job. don't forget, for all of you out there itching to hire me, i'm still mostly available. this job is temporary. i need something permanent.


  • At 12:00 PM, Blogger Jordan Hirsch said…

    [Full disclosure: I am married to the POV blogger in question here, but I am trying to be objective as a fellow blogger and general blog-reader.]

    I don't think it's standard practice to ask another blogger for permission before quoting a small portion of his or her blog post. Sure, maybe the POV blogger mis-read your emotional state, but that's a danger inherent in any sort of creation - it's up to the rest of us to form conclusions about what your words mean. And they will mean different things to different people.

    I think this blogger quoting you is absolutely "fair use," just as your usage of Radiohead and Arcade Fire lyrics for your blog's title & sub-title are, or when I quote excerpts from interviews with musicians or copyright experts, or other music blogs. I think this would be different if the blogger was claiming to have interviewed you, or to have had some further discussion with you about the meaning of your post - but she isn't. She's just quoting your blog among others and drawing her own conclusions.

    I don't see how there's anything "lazy" about quoting from a blog in a post that is intended to be a round-up of blog posts on a common theme. She attributed the text to you, she linked back to your blog, and she used a very small amount of your original work, all while making it clear that she was quoting from a blog post as opposed to a personal interview. I can't see how she's under any obligation to ask your permission first. Sure, I would love it if someone asked me if/when they wanted to use a portion of one of my blog posts [hasn't happened yet], but I don't believe they are under any sort of professional obligation to do so, as long as they are not intentionally mis-characterizing my work.

  • At 12:45 PM, Blogger Faith said…

    Just jumping in to say here (after the lengthy defensive comment from Jordan above...which might have been better said in email format so as to make the Hirsch's look less...I don't wanna say douchey, but it's how it's coming off to me for some reason. Just drawing my own conclusions there, sorry!) that drinking during the day is a lovely pasttime that I openly partake in whether on vacation, on a weekend, or unemployed. Know why? 'Cause I can. It's not like we're working on Madison Ave in the 60's, for Pete's sake! Gotta draw the line, these days...

  • At 1:13 PM, Blogger May said…

    As someone who reads your blog, I thought her representation of you was sloppy and inaccurate. It sounded like she was talking about a completely different person.

  • At 1:16 PM, Blogger Pensive Girl said…


    i appreciate your thoughts. however, as i'm sure your wife knows, as journalists, there are some ethics involved here. it's not just about blogging. it's about the forum. the audience. etc. i think if you are going to pull a quote from a blog and you intend to tell the blogger about it, there is no reason to wait until the piece has been published.

    it's not just that your wife didn't ask permission, it's that she used to for a blog for which, i'm assuming, she is paid to write for. it wasn't for her personal blog. that would be a totally different story. for one writer to make money by quoting another writer's blog seems a bit unprofessional without asking permission or at least letting the source know.

  • At 1:26 PM, Blogger Erin said…

    I didn't think anything had been done wrong here until you pointed out that she's getting paid to quote your post.

    And yeah, it's not standard to ask permission to quote, but I think we can all agree that's a pretty emotionally charged and personal posting to pull a random quote from.

    In the end, it is a different story because she's getting paid - and it makes me consider the situation in a different light.

  • At 1:33 PM, Blogger Erin said…

    After going back and reading the POV posting again, I have to say I don't think the writer did anything wrong.

    I think her post could have been more compelling if she also interviewed you to get some answers on why you blog about your situation and if it has been helpful to you.

    I still look at the posting differently because she's a paid blogger, but I don't think it was unprofessional or lazy. It was a showcase of how people are using new technology to report on the economic crisis.

    It sucks to feel like your words, and essentially you, have been taken out of context and misrepresented, but that is a risk we run by writing publicly, however personal the material may be.

  • At 1:34 PM, Blogger Amanda said…

    Hey, I just want to say, as I did over on the POV blog, that I'm truly sorry for upsetting you, and I see that it would have been more sensitive for me to give you a heads up in advance.

    However, I disagree strongly that I did anything unprofessional, or even "a bit" unprofessional. Quoting and linking to a blog as part of original analysis (in my case, analyzing user-generated content about the recession) is within the realm of fair use. I clearly attributed the quote to you, and linked back to the source.

    I also disagree that I mischaracterized you. In the post, you say you're going through the depths of the deep. I say you've "hit bottom." I believe this is a fair interpretation.

  • At 1:50 PM, Blogger Jordan Hirsch said…

    @Pensive Girl,

    Thank you for your reply. I too, hadn't considered the idea that a paid blog post carries different implications/responsibilities in this particular context than a personal one. Having never been paid to write, I definitely don't have any expertise on that front - obviously I'm used to seeing this issue through the lens of a non-paid personal blogger.

    I agree with @Erin that a professional blog is certainly different than a personal one, but I still don't feel that any journalistic integrity was compromised here, or that Amanda's post was unprofessional or lazy - it was billed as a round-up of other people's (i.e. "user-generated") content, and that's what it delivered.

    I would be very curious to hear what other professional/paid bloggers think on the subject.

    Thanks again for your thoughtful reply.

  • At 8:11 AM, Blogger MoxieMamaKC said…

    While a lot of bloggers will cite another's work,(I do it all the time) it's a common courtesy, in my opinion, to give a heads up beforehand, if it's a sensitive topic. Being a regular Pensive Girl reader, the article really wasn't very realistic of that period in your life. I don't think the blogger did anything intentionally to misrepresent you, but it ended up that way...Sorry this is upsetting you...

  • At 8:39 AM, Blogger Pensive Girl said…

    you know, i think in the end, this is an issue of ethics. it's not about fair use. it's not about legality. it's simple ethics.

    would i have contacted a source, even if the information i gathered was already published online in their blog? yes.

    would i have hoped to better-represent the source? yes.

    would i have made sure i was truly representing the source about such a personal manner for a story i was being paid to write? yes.

    but those are my ethics.

    i think this would be a great topic for a journalism class to discuss. how does fair use of online material impact our ethics as reporters of news and trends and issues? does it mean we don't have to do our homework? i would argue that it does not.

    what would you argue?

  • At 2:35 PM, Blogger rubigimlet said…

    at the risk of seeming like an insensitive ahole, I've been blogging off and on since 2002 and in that time I've seen plenty of user generated content used (abused in some situations) without so much as a link. While I think a heads up notification email would have been in line with the conventions of good taste, I don't see the manner in which she re-used this content as unethical journalism. I do see it as lazy and a yes, a bit douchey -- that's where the paid blogging comes in. At any rate, I think you didn't like the characterization, as many of us wouldn't, but I suggest simply that that is part of putting yourself out there on a blog. It can be painful to look at a post like that through the eyes of someone who may not be a loyal reader, but, ultimately, you reached a broader audience and your post remains as it always was, a snapshot of an articulate, tough broad down on her luck.

  • At 2:38 PM, Blogger rubigimlet said…

    and actually -- I want to commend you for adding to the public discourse on the recession in such a personal way. the internet (and the Hirsches) is richer for it. i don't know if my previous comment reflected the respect I have for how you documented this relatively short period in your life.


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