I’m not sure who said it, but I’ve heard that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Sometimes that’s true, but sometimes imitation is just insulting. That is especially true when that imitation is nothing more than ripping off your hard work and portraying it as your own.
To be honest, for the majority of my career in TV news, I have done little that is worth ripping off. Recently I’ve been a part of stories that have been the result of months of my own work and research. Part of me is pleased when I see others copying my work, knowing that at least those in the business saw it first on my station…and they know they are having to follow me. That feeds my pride. Though there are times when I see other journalists simply write out my work…take what I have done and simply pass it off as their own. I’ve seen print articles write out my contributions entirely and cite sources that are copying me. That is insulting. And at the same time, I’m thankful for it.
I’m thankful because it’s given me a chance to see what so many journalists I’ve read, watched and respected have experienced for years. Yes, most of the time the accusation is TV news ripping off the hard work of newspapers. The sad thing is, that happens. Though I’ve tried not to, I’m sure there are times I’ve not given proper attribution to a paper in the past. I try to make sure it never happens again. It means working harder and smarter. These days I try to make sure no one scoops me, especially the newspaper. It still happens. When it does, I pick myself up and I go to work to make sure I get more, show more and tell a better story than anyone is able to read in the paper.
I understand we are all competitors. We all want the story and we all have different audiences. TV stations can do stories that appear in the newspaper and many times can do a better job, because people want to see the video and hear from those involved. It’s a medium that allows us to share more than you can see in print. Many times, the newspaper can tell a better story than I can on TV. Those are stories that are far to complicated to fully tell when you are limited to a few minutes on screen.
While we are competing, I hope journalists don’t lose the respect for each other. It’s one thing to protect your sources and any exclusivity, but if you’re not willing or able to do the work…cite your source. I’ve written scripts that give credit to newspapers before. It is a bitter pill to swallow. I hate it. Newspapers and TV are natural rivals. In college we had a yearly softball game against the newspaper folks…all four years I was there, we stomped them. For the rest of the year they touted their superiority as part of the print world and we mocked them for their devotion to a dying medium. Now we are all in the same boat…budgets are being cut, newsrooms downsized and the need for news more vital than ever. All I hope is that we respect each other. Respect the craft. Respect the work. We can all share the same stories…but let’s all put in the effort. Our viewers, readers and listeners deserve the hardest working journalists possible.