A few weeks ago, thanks to Google (how I love thee, Google), I found out that my post “Tricky People” are the New Strangers was all over Yahoo News.
No, I don’t spend all day googling myself. I barely have time to eat breakfast or brush my teeth around here, so if I’m going to invest any time in self-stroking, well, hey, I’d rather it be the other kind.
That’s why I use Google Alerts – so that I can lie around all day …
Shortly after “Tricky People” went viral and started bringing in 10k hits a day, I set up a Google Alert for the phrase just so if anybody re-printed my post without crediting me I’d know about it.
I figured some newbie blogger might make that kind of error, and I’d go find her and chat with her and gently let her know the error of her ways.
Here’s what I didn’t think would happen:
THAT A MAJOR MARKET NEWS SHOW, A NATIONAL NETWORK AFFILIATE NEWSHOW, would steal my work, photograph it clearly enough that you could read my words and my kids’ names, use MY post as the hook for THEIR story, BLUR MY NAME, then go through MY links to get to Pattie Fitzgerald’s SafelyEverAfter.com, and use images from HER SITE without permission – and without credit – too.
That they would then use the work they stole from us as the major content for their piece, and bring in a third expert to DISCUSS our work – and still never mention that it was OUR WORK in the first place.
Oh yeah: and then be dumb enough to run THEIR PIECE, which was quickly picked up by Yahoo and run all over the globe, under MY TITLE.
Yep. They were that dumb. They called their piece “Tricky” People are the New Strangers.
(Don’t get me started on the artlessness of changing the quotation marks from “Tricky People” to “Tricky” People. In what third-grade classroom did they learn that PUNCTUATION CHANGES were enough to avoid a plagiarism charge?)
Clearly, no one over at CBS Miami had ever heard of a Google Alert. Or the internet in general. I mean, really? Did they think they could run a story like this on their 11 o’clock news and NO ONE WOULD KNOW?
It took me all of 8 hours to find out.
I watched the story. Several times. Mostly because I couldn’t believe the opening copy was so blatantly … shitty.
MIAMI (CBS4) – Right now a serious email about an extremely serious topic is flying around the Internet. It’s titled ‘tricky people’ are the new strangers. It addresses who out there really will molest and rape your children and it’s likely not who you’d think.
Then I got really, really, mad.
Luckily, so did most of the people I turned to for help. Mr. Big(Ideas) called his friend @TravelingPumper, a PR person in Chicago, who quickly offered advice and found me CBS Miami contact info. The bloggers I know through a FB group were supportive, and one of them, @DonnaTetreault, who also happens to be a journalist, told me who to talk to and what to ask for.
I called CBS Miami. I explained my problem. I got passed around the newsroom. The news director was out that day – so I ended up talking to the dumbass reporter who’d done piece I was so pissed about.
Here’s a list of stupid things she said that enraged me:
I got that “Tricky People” email from a friend – I didn’t realize it was a blog post. It didn’t really have any identifying info on it.
Umm … ok … you didn’t know it was a blog post. Fair enough. But it clearly still had a TITLE on it, because you STOLE it. And it had identifying info on it: AUTHOR and DATESTAMP links – which you BLURRED OUT, to obscure them, when you shot the page. Oh, and, you knew those were links – because you clicked through IDENTICALLY FORMATTED hypertext to get to Pattie’s site … which you also stole content from.
When I pointed all of this information out, she asked me to prove I had written the piece in the first place. So I walked her through Googling the title she stole. This was revelatory for her. Apparently, her reporting was so fucking lazy she didn’t bother to CHECK HER SOURCE.
I mean, come on. Emails don’t write THEMSELVES. You never once, for a single moment, thought, Where did this come from?
You should be really proud of yourself – this email is everywhere. I mean, we put it on TV!
You stole it from me. And then made sure no one would know who ME was. What part of this are you not getting?
I wanted to do a piece on a local organization who helps kids who’ve been through this stuff. I mean, at the end of the day, this is about helping kids.
Are you insinuating I feel otherwise? Because I’m not the one who asked a teen-age girl to go on camera and talk about being repeatedly raped by her father over the course of many years.
Well, what exactly is it that you want us to do about this? You want a correction? We don’t offer corrections just to drive traffic to someone’s blog.
Hello? What? I don’t need more TRAFFIC. (As Diddy often points out, thanks to her pre-K teacher, “Needs are things you will DIE if you don’t get.”) I need CREDIT. FOR MY WORK. WHICH YOU STOLE. (Because yes, I would DIE before letting this go.)
This is full-on PLAGIARISM, lady! INTELLECTUAL THEFT! More simply put:
How would you like it if I stole YOUR work?
Nevermind. I’d never do that. Your work is pretty fucking sub-par.
This was not a productive phone call.
As I considered my next move, I was introduced to a very high profile PR guy in LA, @HowardBragman, who is considered the go-to guy for issues like these. He was lovely and responsive to my emails asking his advice – which was essentially, let it go, babe. This shit happens all the time.
What can I say? I still believe in journalism. I still believe in a responsible media. I watch The Newsroom. And, thanks to a healthy dose of Paddy Chayevsky as a child, I was mad as hell and simply not going to take it any more.
So I emailed the news director, whose info I’d luckily taken down BEFORE my crazy phone call with the reporter. And I tweeted the news director, too. I asked for a correction, I asked for web credits. I asked this all in the slightly rabid tone of voice I think my readers have come to know and … well …
Luckily Pattie is slightly more level-headed than me. She sent equally strong emails and made calls, and so we didn’t BOTH sound insane.
And SUPER-luckily, the news director was nowhere near the idiot that the reporter was. She understood that what had happened the day before was A BIG. FUCKING. DEAL. She pointed out she’d been out, taking her kid to camp, while her idiot reporter was making knuckle-headed content. I felt for her.
I know what it’s like to come home from a long trip to find the kids were fucking around with Sharpies while you were gone.
She re-did the story. She re-cut it, she re-voiced it, she re-ran it, she re-posted it. Not only did she credit me and Pattie, she ran our photos.
It’s still a terrible piece of quote-unquote “journalism.” And there is a really weird buzz happening all over the thing now. Still, at least now it’s honest crappy news. Western Civilization has slowed, at least for a moment, its steady march toward the precipice.
Wanna see me getting my Florida-brand of fame on? Click here.