Carnival Of Blog Coverage

Monday, April 03, 2006

Carnival #4: All About Plagiarism

Plagiarism has been a dominant topic in and about both the blogosphere and the MSM the past couple of weeks. First, bloggers exposed one of their own as a serial plagiarist in works that he wrote before he became a blogger. Then bloggers turned the tables on the MSM, providing evidence of plagiarism by the wire service Associated Press.

Ben Domenech of RedState was the blogger busted for lifting the work of others. He's a conservative, and liberal bloggers upset that The Washington Post had contracted with Domenech to write a new blog called Red America went looking for any dirt they could find on him. They found abundant evidence of his plagiarism. At Beltway Blogroll, which I write for NationalJournal.com, I recapped the coverage of the Domenech debacle in both the blogosphere and traditional media.

Jim Brady of washingtonpost.com caught a lot of grief for his role in hiring Domenech, but Slate media critic Jack Shafer later defended Brady.

Soon after that uproar faded, Larisa Alexandrovna picked a fight with AP for not properly crediting work she had done in her role as the managing editor of Raw Story. It's not plagiarism of the sort that Domenech reluctantly confessed, but at the least AP ended up looking rather foolish -- first for defending its actions by stating that AP does not credit blogs and then for flip-flopping on that elitist stance.

In a column for Editor & Publisher, blogger Brad Friedman took the MSM in general to task for giving bloggers short shrift. Plenty of blogs, including Captain's Quarters, Eschaton, Instapundit, MyDD, Talking Points Memo, also penned critical commentary.

Plagiarism is a big deal no matter where you blog. But libel is probably less of a concern in America than it is in places like the United Kingdom. It's definitely an issue there, as evidenced by a "bloggers beware" article in the Manchester Evening News. And in Ireland, a blog faces closure after making allegedly libelous statements about businesses, people, artists and politicians. It must be tough for bloggers to have a voice in Ireland.

There have been plenty of other blog stories in the MSM since mid-March, covering everything from a hiker who blogs to travel and tourism blogs, as well as beauty blogs. Here's your guide:

Government and politics
-- In a follow-up to the lead item in the Carnival #3, the Federal Election Commission largely exempted blogs from campaign finance rules. The House responded by pulling a related bill that appears to be moot in light of the FEC action.

Both a column at TechWeb News and an editorial in a Texas newspaper warned that the decision has opened the door to further blog regulation. And the Los Angeles Times added that the low barrier to entry into the blogosphere and the penchant of bloggers to uncover hidden agendas make for "a far more effective regulatory force than the FEC could ever hope to apply."

-- Bloggers are being portrayed as both heroes and villains in the story surrounding the release of freelance journalist Jill Carroll by captors in Iraq.

-- AP profiled Michigan's political blogs, and the two major parties apparently pay attention to each other's blogging. "I follow Democrats' blogs. Democrats follow our blogs," Michigan GOP Chairman Saul Anuzis told AP.

-- A coalition of Democratic bloggers in Texas took a fellow Democrat to task for his recent behavior in a congressional race. Roger Owen, the Democratic nominee in the 1st District, called another Democrat "a piece of dirt."

-- Something called the WisPolitics/WisOpinion Blog Summit was held several days ago, and the school paper at the University of Wisconsin at Madison has a full report. In Virginia, liberal bloggers are fighting for the heart and soul of the Democratic Party.

-- Are blogs part of or entirely "the liberal base of the Democratic Party"? The Washington Post tackled that question as the result of criticism from one of the top liberal blogs. Me thinks John Aravosis of Americablog protesteth too much. But this analysis seems to be on the mark: "Blogs can be anything from vital, valid journalism to hysterical ranting to dull and even offensive adolescent musings."

-- Other recent stories noted: the political transformation wrought by blogs; the "netroots" as "the ultimate in digital optimization"; blogs as a tool for political attacks, even down to the local level; the immigration debate as a wedge issue for conservative blogs; the growth of the environmental blogging movement; blog leadership by Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga. (full disclosure: I'm quoted in the story) ; the American Civil Liberties Union's defense of a blogger parody; and the push to engage "Reagan's children" via the blogosphere.

Media
-- The Anderson Independent-Mail in South Carolina has joined the media blogging revolution. But the clueless Canon City Daily Record in Colorado, however, apparently thinks too many mainstream media outlets are rushing to embrace blogs.

-- A columnist in Ohio offered these predictions after speaking at a blog forum: "It's only a matter of time before every community has a blog that is influencing public opinion, or at least is part of the mainstream conversation. It's only a matter of time before every newspaper has some sort of blog-like companion to its print editions."

-- What does columnist Molly Ivins think of bloggers? "Bloggers are not news-gatherers, but opinion-mongers. I have long argued that no one should be allowed to write opinion without spending years as a reporter -- nothing like interviewing all four eyewitnesses to an automobile accident and then trying to write an accurate account of what happened." And here's more MSM commentary on "the painful truth about bloggers."

-- A San Francisco Chronicle columnist longs for the day when bloggers, the MSM and other enemies in the digital revolution can all get along. Two signs that the day is coming: the launch of BlogBurst, a network for syndicating blog content in newspapers, and Time magazine's foray into the blogosphere also hints at that possibility. But one newspaperman thinks such moves may spell the end of "the blog as a disruptive and rebellious medium."

-- The path to blogger fame and fortune ironically appears to be recognition in the mainstream media that so many bloggers despise. And in marking the 10th anniversary of his paper's move online, the computer columnist for The Chicago Tribune said, "The lifeblood of content for the blogosphere comes from the very news organizations that so many bloggers think they are making obsolete."

Culture
-- Newspapers in Michigan and Wisconsin independently noted the benefits of college blogs, including their ability to offer both advice and insider views of the college scene. The best education bloggers say their medium of choice is having an impact on teaching and learning.

-- A dean of students and English teacher in Pennsylvania is so smitten with blogs and the lessons they can teach that he is requiring students to write their own and link to his in order to create a "virtual classroom.

-- The contrary view: School administrators in Fort Wayne, Ind., are so disturbed by what they have seen on some blogs that they tried to block student access to them. Some information on blogs and social-networking sites like MySpace are even being used to aid criminal probes.

-- Blogging is the medium of the young, but some older folks like the medium, too.

Business
-- "The risks of blogging can discourage companies from even trying -- or can cause them to post Web sites that blog readers see as lame attempts to blog." That's one of several insights from a recent MSNBC piece about blogging in the business world. The article suggests that smart companies engage the blogosphere, and I concur. The pharmaceutical industry appears to be getting the message.

-- Microsoft employees recently aired their gripes about the company anonymously at Mini-Microsoft, a forum whose mission is to "slim down Microsoft into a lean, mean, efficient, customer-pleasing, profit-making machine."

-- Smaller businesses in the Tampa, Fla., region are more likely than larger ones to have blogs. They understand that blogs can be a powerful marketing tool.

Miscellaneous
-- Most bloggers are writing volunteers, so it makes sense that there is a budding blog community in the Volunteer State (that's Tennessee for those of you who are challenged in the state nicknames department).

-- The problem with blogs: bad grammar. They are more "brain dump" than writing forum.

-- Bloggers Blends: a new coffee brand just for bleary-eyed bloggers. Maybe they'll serve it as part of the Blogonomics conference/cruise.

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