Mea Culpa. Yes On One But Maybe Not On The Other ~ Annapolis Capital Punishment

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Mea Culpa. Yes On One But Maybe Not On The Other

Earlier this week, CP wrote two posts:

Once Again, Capital's Eric Hartley Is Right On The Money...and on CP's Coat-tails


Did He Die Defending Freedom? Does His Death Enhance Our Security?

These posts elicited the following response from a photographer at The Capital:

Hello Paul,
I considered writing the other day and defending the reputation of Capital writer (and colleague of mine) Eric Hartley, whom I know to be one of the finest reporters I've ever been lucky enough to work with. You didn't exactly use the "P" word in your post concerning similarities between his columns and your blog, but I get the feeling you wanted to.
Perhaps if I had written, you would have thought twice before posting a photograph today without any refrence (sic) to the photographer that captured the scene or the newspaper that originally published it. The excellent photo in question was shot by Baltimore Sun photographer Kim Hairston. The cutline on the Sun site is as follows : Ursula Bowen (center) stands outside St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church after the funeral of her husband, Army Staff Sgt. Collin J. Bowen, a member of the Maryland National Guard. Standing with Ursula are (from left) Erin, 13; Katelyn, 10, (Sgt. Bowen's daughters from a previous marriage) and Gabriela, 3. (Sun photo by Kim Hairston / March 25, 2008)
I know from experience that these photographs are neither easy to capture nor easy to live with afterwards. Proper credit should be given to Ms Hairston, and to the Sun for their work.
This blog is clearly a labor of love for you, it shows in your engaging stories and commitment to the community. And pointing out the follies of the local media is a service, especially when the media deserves it. Which I freely admit we often do. But you can't have it both ways when it comes to credit.
Thanks for your time,
Joshua McKerrow/Capital Newspaper Photojournalist

CP thanks Mr. McKerrow for his letter and for his criticisms as well as compliments. I think there are two issues here. The first one is the credit line to the Baltimore Sun. CP often writes about and responds to items in our local and two "regional" newspapers. Mr. McKerrow is correct. It should never have happened. My inadvertent mistake has been corrected.

The second concern is murkier. I have also heard from Mr. Hartley and have responded with an apology. In turn he has written back and I to him again. I think we both have come to better understand each other and our situation as a result. That correspondence shall remain between he and I, however, the record shows I have repeatedly praised his writings, mentioned his columns and referred many readers to The Capital's site where his columns are posted. I have also repeatedly written on the topic of overhauling and transforming public housing for many months before his column appeared.

I write this blog as an independent public service, and without compensation. Mr. Hartley writes for a multi-million dollar news media company and receives a salary, benefits and an office--and a visible readership. CP, on the other hand, has actually promoted Mr. Hartley and his columns and his paper, because I see this as part of my role as a public servant, in creating a forum for news. If I had never praised Mr. Hartley, this might be a different matter. If I had never referred readers to his columns, it would have been a different matter. And finally, and most importantly, if I had not felt that Mr. Hartley had written on similar topics after I had been writing about them, this would have been a different matter. That is likely a function of the "contagion" of news and our concern with pressing issues of local concern. Perhaps I was too sensitive about this.

To say, as I have said, that "Hartley is Right On The Money...and on CP's coat-tails" is hardly screaming "plagiarism" and certainly was not intended to be defamatory or negative. However, if anything, I am guilty of being obtuse.

Mr. McKerrow wrote that I "did not exactly use the 'P' word [by which he means plagiarism] but he is wrong in saying, "I get the feeling you wanted to". Plagiarism is an increasingly complicated topic, thanks to the internet, and it is a serious charge whose penalties can also be serious. Any readers who wish to know more are directed to study the definitions of plagiarism and of "coattails."

As always, CP strives to be fair and accountable, and since I consistently accused former Capital columnists Joe Gross and Eric Smith of rarely if ever being fair or accountable, I take Mr. McKerrow's concerns seriously. I will continue to point readers to Mr. Hartley's columns when they deserve special mention. Please feel free to send your comments.


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