Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Is Huffington Post Miami guilty of theft?

Arianna Huffington is most famous for launching a website that posts thousands of stories a week, most of them written by people who don't get a dime for their work.

Much of what appears on HuffPost is written by bloggers who write for no pay. The fact that thousands will see their scribblings is apparently all the compensation they desire.

And then there's the serious stuff. Huffington Post "borrows" or "aggregates" - hundreds, perhaps thousands of stories a week from mainstream hard news websites.

Here's how it works: A newspaper pays a reporter to write a story. The reporter's story appears on the paper's website. Huffington Post then comes along and rewrites the story - adding no original reporting of its own - and posts the story on its site with a link to the original newspaper story.

It's a formula that's made Arianna Huffington a very wealthy woman.

Last February, AOL bought The Huffington Post for $315 million. The news didn't escape the attention of HuffPost's unpaid bloggers.

Arianna Huffington once boasted that "HuffPost [has] 148 full-time editors, writers, and reporters engaged in the serious, old-fashioned work of traditional journalism."

Last Nov. 30, Huffington announced the rollout of HuffPost Miami.

Huffington told her readers that HuffPost Miami would, "dig deeper in an effort to tell the stories of all the people who make up this unique city -- one that is a combustible blend of the old and the new, the glittery and the grimy, the transient and the entrenched. Our coverage will include the struggles that are familiar to cities all across the country but that have hit Miami particularly hard."

So, how's that working out? Let's check up on HuffPost Miami and see how they're practicing "the serious, old-fashioned work of traditional journalism."

For starters, Random Pixels has learned that HuffPost Miami has a staff of two. A third paid staffer has yet to be hired.

Maybe I'm naive, but where I come from it's a little hard to "tell the stories of all the people who make up this unique city" with a staff of just two or three.

So, what does the staff of HuffPost Miami do?

They're doing what made Arianna rich ... which ain't even close to "serious, traditional journalism", unless, of course you got your journalism degree from San Quentin or Raiford.

The HuffPost Miami staff is hard at work, busily stealing borrowing cutting and pasting aggregating stories they find on Miami's news sites.

And some in local media circles are starting to notice.

Today on Facebook, Miami Herald intern Jon Silman wrote, "The dream of any journalist? Why, Huffpost aggregation, of course. Thanks for the (sort of) link guys."

What Silman was referring to was HuffPost Miami's wholesale cut-and-paste job of his story on the family of a woman killed in a crash that won an almost $9 million judgment against Luis Cruz-Govin, the teen driver who caused the crash.

Instead of summing up the story in a few paragraphs and then linking to the Herald story, HuffPost Miami staffer Amanda McCorquodale rewrote Silman's story, cutting and pasting key details and elements from the story.

McCorquodale tries and fails to cover up her literary larceny with some shady sleight of hand that wouldn't fool Stevie Wonder.

Silman writes about a "partially consumed" bottle of cough syrup found in Cruz-Govin's car. In McCorquodale's story it becomes a "half-empty" bottle of cough syrup. Nice try Amanda.

Here are more examples:
From the Herald story: Myriam del Socorro Lopez was a passenger in a car driven by her husband, travelling eastbound on Bird Road, when Luis Cruz-Govin, 17 at the time, was speeding and weaving in and out of traffic in his father’s Subaru.

From the HuffPost story: In 2008, Myriam del Socorro Lopez was in the car with her husband on Bird Road when 17-year-old Luis Cruz-Govin, speeding and weaving, crashed into their vehicle. Lopez died on the scene.

From the Herald story: “The (defendant) was clearly a chronic texter,” Goldfarb said, citing the 127 texts Cruz-Govin sent on the day of the accident.

From the HuffPost story: Not only was Cruz-Govin speeding, according to the Herald, he was a habitual texter. On the day of the accident, records show he sent 127 texts, the Herald reports.

From the Herald story: According to the complaint, there was marijuana and cocaine in the Subaru, and a partially consumed bottle of Delsym cough syrup.

From the HuffPost story: Police also found marijuana and cocaine in [Cruz-Govin's] car as well as a half-empty bottle of cough syrup.
In another Herald story posted on the paper's website Monday evening, veteran staffer Andres Viglucci wrote about the Dade Heritage Trust's efforts to have the Miami Herald building declared a historic landmark.

By 9am Tuesday, Janie Campbell, "founding editor" of HuffPost Miami had copied and regurgitated Viglucci's story all over HuffPost Miami's homepage.

In her story, Campbell cuts and pastes entire quotes and chunks from Viglucci's story:
From the Herald story: In a statement to The Herald, Christian Goode, president of Genting’s Resorts World Miami subsidiary, called the Herald building “an affront to smart urban planning’’ because it blocks views of and public access to Biscayne Bay.

From the HuffPost story: Genting, [...] immediately responded with a statement declaring the One Herald Plaza "an affront to smart urban planning." (NOTE: Here Campbell attempted to change the phrase "the Herald building" in Viglucci's story to "One Herald Plaza" but neglected to edit out the word "the." Busted!)

From the Herald story: “It may be an uphill a battle, but it’s a worthwhile undertaking,’’ said Heritage Trust chief executive Becky Roper Matkov after the group’s board voted to proceed with the application, which is now being drafted. “I’m sure we will have a lot of opposition from monied interests. That hasn’t stopped us before.’’

From the HuffPost story: “I’m sure we will have a lot of opposition from monied interests," Matkov told the Herald, who are rent-free tenants in the building until 2013. "That hasn’t stopped us before."

From the Herald story: “There’s just one issue: Does it meet the criteria?’’ said historian Arva Moore Parks, former chairwoman of the city’s planning board, who supports the designation. “Then you have to follow the law.’’

From the HuffPost story: Historian Arva Moore Parks, former chairwoman of the city's planning board, told the Herald, "There's just one issue: Does it meet the criteria? Then you have to follow the law."
Random Pixels contacted Campbell today to get her side of the story. She declined to say anything on the record until she could get an OK from her bosses in New York.

Random Pixels also reached out to Herald managing editor Rick Hirsch this afternoon.

By phone, Hirsch declined to comment except to say, "I'll say what I have to say directly to the Huffington Post. There are some things we'll be discussing soon."

Others at the Herald agreed to talk with me on the condition I not use their names.

Of Huffington Post Miami's practices, one long-time Herald reporter told me, "Sure they link to our stories, but who's going to click through after they've read the entire story on the Huffington Post?"

Another Herald journalist was a little more direct: "We knew this was going to happen. The crop of people they hired couldn't get hired at the Herald," adding, "If you can't find an original story in this town on your own, then you ain't a journalist."


  1. Francisco AlvaradoDecember 21, 2011 9:42 PM

    The sad thing is that the people who religiously read the Huff Post (i.e. leftist pseudo-intellectuals)don't care. They really believe they are getting informed opinions and inside knowledge that the poor dumb ass masses can't possibly understand. When the site launched a few weeks back, an aide to a city commissioner opened a thread on his FB asking me and other reporters on his network what we thought of it.
    I told him the Miami version was "the same as the mother ship. Nothing more than a glorified news and events web portal." The first person to respond to my comment is a senior policy advisor for a federal agency, a job you would think would require someone who could tell the difference between quality original journalism and a blatant rip-off aggregation web-site.
    His response: "And that's different from the other Miami publications how?"
    Mr. Advisor, who was also an editor at the Miami Herald for a couple of years, went on to say "I think the HuffPost is better" than the Herald and New Times.
    The commissioner's aide argued "HuffPo is more about opinion and observations than real news. I think it's interesting as a business model."

  2. This is an issue the the HuffPo has been dealing with for quite some time.





  3. Hi guys! Great point you bring up. As a local writer and editor, I too, get upset about the place our industry is going, but the truth is we're all racing to get clicks, visitors, etc. So in a way, I think HuffPost is helping others keep their jobs. As a writer/editor, if your stories don't produce clicks, visits, comments, etc., you're not doing your job. So in reality, HuffPost is giving these other outlets more visibility. I understand the argument that people won't click to the original source because they already received the lowdown from HuffPost, but we know that's not always true. People still click through. I do!

    And of course Arianna Huffington is rolling in the dough. She started her own pub! The rest of us are just working for people like her that went out and actually did something great. It's our choice, no?

    While others might be scared because a pub with a big name came into town, I'm thankful. I love you guys at the Herald, but your problems started way before HuffPost came into town. And MNT, you have your market. Don't be intimidated. You'll always rock that market!

    So let's support each other. Writers, if you think you should get paid for every time your story gets repurposed, you're in the wrong industry. See the positive in this. Because what's the alternative?

  4. The question is, would a writer rather have a story published on one site with one set of readers OR that story duplicated, stolen, reproduced, changed or whatever you want to call it across MULTIPLE sites which ultimately link back to them?

    I think it's an honor for somebody to want to copy your work. It shows it's worth copying!

    For those of you who don't get your work copied or posted elsewhere, don't worry, try and bit harder next year and it might be!

    I'm not being facetious , I'm just pointing out that the web isn't about unique content. It's about getting the word out in as many different ways as possible.

    Can you pick a different story as well to bring these issues up about please - not one where somebody's died. Thanks

  5. The constantly do this with miami New Times stories

  6. This seems like a gratuitous complaint. Huffington Post didn't "steal" the story, it shared the actual story with a far larger audience than the Herald could reach. It also credited the Herald and provided a link to the original story. The worst that can be legitimately claimed is that HuffPo failed to continuously and tediously refer to the original source, i.e. "…the Miami Herald reported a half empty cough syrup bottle…" instead of just saying a "half-empty" cough syrup bottle.

  7. This is a worthy conversation to have, but frankly, in a post that claims to be protecting rigorous journalistic standards, there is some rather unfortunate word choice. To accuse HuffPost of "stealing" when they have clearly attributed their source is a bit over the top (I used the link for the original post--there's only a few graphs from the Herald).

    I agree with other posters that this can only help the Herald. For them to get upset about being linked to by a major site like HuffPost shows how fundamentally an old-model newspaper like the Herald misunderstands the current media climate. I, for one, read HuffPost, and have only recently started reading Herald stories, thanks to their links. Their pride might be wounded, but I would bet anything their clicks are through the roof.

    I like blogs/aggregations. They let you pick and choose what to read. And it seems there's a fair amount of aggregation, done in this spirit, on this very blog...

  8. I agree with those who say this isn't stealing but exposing the information more and helping the Herald get more clicks. I have read HuffPost Miami and they tend to actually just link *directly* to the Herald and other sources from their front page sometimes - sans any aggregation-type stuff. I do think the aggregation can be done more responsibly and I do think that the HuffPost Miami staff should take a stab at some more original reporting. I checked out some other local HuffPost sites, like D.C., which both aggregate and do a healthy amount of original reporting. Perhaps we haven't given HuffPost Miami enough time to really show us what it can do -- and I suppose they are still looking for a third person? Also, as a former Miami resident and Herald reader, I am happy to have anybody investing money in journalism, whether traditional or HuffPost style, into the city.

  9. Right at the top "The Miami Herald reports" with a link.

    Yes, they aggregate news, who doesn't. Miami New Times does this every day with the Herald and nobody is bitching.

  10. As a local writer/blogger, I have no respect for a publication that doesn't pay its writers. And those writers who accept the niche are devaluing the profession. Makes Ariana Huffington look like a feudal overlord with a team of slaves.

    It's one thing if you're invited to guest post every now and then as a well-established professional or celebrity in your field, but regular contributions? Free is for young interns, not pros.

    Also, you might as well post your original material on your own blog and build SEO.

    A friend of mine who used to write for HuffPo quit after a while. It only builds resentment and you waste your energy on a publication that doesn't value you enough to pay.

  11. So if I have this straight, a reporter uses his/her time and talent (and education and contacts and equipment) to gather information and then write a story for the newspaper, with the newspaper footing the bill to do that. Then HuffPost takes that story, changes a few words around and, essentially, uses that story on its site to generate revenue.

    I don't know if that's stealing, but I know it's not right.

  12. I guess you've never seen sites like Buzzfeed, Reddit, MetaFilter and other aggregators?

  13. There's a site locally not affiliated with Huffington, however, all they do is steal content from other places re-reporting it as if they're journalists. It's very pathetic when journalists, including photojournalists, are all getting ripped of non-stop by these fake media outlets!

  14. I once blogged for HuffPo, but will no longer. Their headlines are very often misleading and sensational, with teaser questions and requirements to click through a number of photos in order to read the article. If I wanted to work for a tabloid mess, I'd offer my articles to the National Enquirer -- they would at least pay.


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