Friday, October 19, 2007

Special to the Sun and Other Thoughts on Sourcing

There's so much obfuscation at the Charlotte Sun about where our news come from -- particularly for the cow-zone edition -- that I thought I'd make a point, even if it's not a big one. I call it puffing up one's place in the news stream.

The gripe is that fake byline, "Special to The Sun." The example today is a travel piece -- not terribly interesting because it's Belize and we're not. But there is it, sprawled under the byline, "Sara Widnes, Special to the Sun."

Do an Internet search on Widnes. It turns out she's a nice PR lady based in Vermont who produces a lot of travel copy. It's all good stuff, I'm sure. Do another Internet search on her subject, Casa del Caballo Balnco's eco-lodge, and it turns out her story has been plastered -- word for word -- all over the travel-and-tour blogs since at least early September. Some sites give credit to Widnes and some don't. The point is, this space filler is not special and it's not special to the Sun. Sun editors need the ego boost, I guess, even if it's a lie that deceives readers about the the source of their news. Be honest. Tell readers the story is "By Sara Widnes, President of Widnes and Wiggins Public Relations."

The day's second tidbit is an imperative from the editors: "Look for more veteran news from Joseph McKenney that will be provided on a regular basis for the DeSoto Sun."

I hope everyone involved in produing and publishing this unpaid-for column will take care to check the gentleman's sources. Today's item, headlined "History of Veterans Day," appears to have been taken word for word from our federal government's Veterans Affairs site. Not that McKenney was the first to copy the paragraphs and not that he will be the last to copy the text without acknoweldgement (after all, it was written by the government, and those are his tax dollars, right?). Unfortunately, the DeSoto Sun isn't well known in these parts for employing professional writers who know how to produce unplagiarized work, particularly on time-worn topics.

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