What are the basic rights of citizen journalists? What protections they can expect as granted by the First Amendment, and specifically what rights do they have regarding reusability and copyright? Tracy Record is the Editor and Co-publisher of the West Seattle Blog (WSB), the market-leading news source for West Seattle (pop. 85,000) one of Seattle’s biggest neighborhoods. http://westseattleblog.com/
Record says, “Nobody plays by the same rules.”
Why not? Recently, I sat down with Record for a one-on-one interview about the rights and responsibilities of citizen journalists. Record is considered by many to be a pioneer in new media. She’s a long-time TV journalist, having worked in abcnews.com and KOMO 4 TV and KCPQ newsrooms. The West Seattle Blog says it averages 1 million pageviews a month. Record was honored with the Society of Professional Journalists’ June A. Almquist Award for Distinguished Service to Journalism. WSB also received the 2012 “Government News Reporting of the Year” award from the Municipal League. For the third consecutive year WSB has been awarded KING 5’s “Best of Western Washington” and Seattle Magazine’s “Best of 2012”.
Yeager: Are there different rules governing new media? How does West Seattle Blog navigate through usage and copyright issues?
Record: I’ve always played by the same rules. Most people assume that some (citizen journalists) in new media play fast and loose with the rules. I find it the other way around sometimes. There are people in old media just out of college, without much experience and I find that they seem to break the rules more often. I tend to play by the ‘do no harm’ principle. If someone says something to you, making sure someone knew they really intended to say that, unless you’re digging up something and it’s really something revelatory and also being very ethical about the use of material.
Yeager: Is there an assumption that old rules don’t apply to new media?
Record: We follow copyright when it comes to photos and other information on line. People have this belief that it’s out there on the Internet, I should be able to use it. No. You have to treat it as though it came from an old school newspaper or a TV station.
Yeager: Have you been burned by some of these assumptions?
Record: We had a restaurant story, a small, simple story about a restaurant opening in the area and one of our readers contacted us and asked, “Did you know that one of your pictures was being used on Yelp and on Curbed?” What had happened apparently was someone who was a Yelp user uploaded a photo of the restaurant from our story and uploaded the photo to Yelp’s reader’s gallery and apparently Yelp doesn’t check their photo gallery and then because Curbed has some sort of agreement with Yelp, they then took that and put it on a story that they ran. Upon discovering this I had two choices. One was, oh well, what the hell, it doesn’t matter and the other as well, I could make a point of it. So I wrote to both entities and it took a long time to go through and just find somebody to contact. I said, that’s our photo. It’s copyrighted. Just look, it’s on the bottom of our site.
Yeager: What does it say?
Record: It says “no photo used without site owner’s permission.” And I asked, “Will you please take it down?” And the last time I looked, neither had taken it down. It’s work in this case. I spent money to get it produced. I paid a freelancer for that story. Not a lot of money but it’s still money out of my pocket. Both entities (Yelp and Curbed) are owned by large corporations with millions of dollars of investments and we’re just a little bootstrap, with no money besides the advertising we get sell so it’s annoying at the very least. We reserve our legal battles for things that matter more to our heart. I would expect that people follow the rules and not steal our material.