Let me preface what I’m about to say by giving you a little personal biographical perspective.
I have toiled in the world of big-league journalism for nearly 30 years. I have run daily newspapers in major markets. I have been an investigative reporter. I have taught journalism in major universities. I have founded the most successful and largest independent news service on the Internet.
With all that experience, I thought I had seen it all.
Still, I was shocked by the New York Times’ Jayson Blair scandal, just as I was shocked by the Washington Post’s Janet Cooke scandal. I’ve got news for you: There’s another scandal brewing at the largest news-gathering organization in the world, the Associated Press.
For the second time in a year, the AP has flagrantly misappropriated exclusive, copyright material published by WorldNetDaily. No attribution. No credit. No nothing.
On Aug. 5, WorldNetDaily ran a story, “FBI guide warns of hidden knives,” after the U.S. government warned that al-Qaida terrorists planned to use concealed weapons to hijack planes by the end of the summer. The exclusive story, originally posted July 8, included a .pdf file link to the 89-page FBI guide, which contains a gallery of photos of concealable knives. It also quotes FBI spokesman Ed Cogswell.
The next day, Aug. 6, AP’s Washington bureau filed a remarkably similar story under the headline, “FBI catalogs hidden weapons that terrorists could use.” It suggested it had “obtained” the 89-page catalog exclusively on its own, and gave no credit to WorldNetDaily, which had previously published the catalog. International cycles of the AP story went out Aug. 7.
“Many items cost less than $20 and can be difficult to detect using airport screening devices, according to an FBI statement accompanying the 89-page catalog obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press,” correspondent Curt Anderson writes in the second paragraph of his story.
Here is the second paragraph of WND’s July 8 story (re-posted Aug. 5), which included a link to the complete catalog: “Most of the nearly 90 samples photographed in the extensive database of concealable weapons are commercially available for less than $20, the FBI says. [This .pdf FBI document contains a gallery of photos and takes about 1 minute to download.]”
Just a year ago, AP claimed as its own another WND copyright exclusive, a claim that was summarily discredited by an Internet columnist for the Wall Street Journal.
WorldNetDaily’s Sept. 19 story about the U.S. fingerprinting Saudi and Pakistani visitors included a link to a confidential Justice Department memo authorizing the new policy. WND had obtained the four-page memo exclusively from INS sources, scanned it and posted it as a link within the story. It had never been seen before in the media.
Four days later, AP’s own version of the story about the fingerprinting policy hit the wires: “Justice Department orders fingerprinting of male visitors from Saudi Arabia.”
Washington correspondent Suzanne Gamboa, who had received a copy of the WND story Sept. 19, claimed in her AP story that she had “obtained” the very memo linked in the WND scoop. She gave no credit to WND.
James Taranto, a Wall Street Journal editor who compiles “The Best of the Web” column for OpinionJournal.com, took AP to task in a Sept. 25 item, “Fingerprinting the Saudis.”
“WorldNetDaily had the story last Thursday, well ahead of the Associated Press: According to a government memo, Attorney General John Ashcroft has determined that ‘certain nonimmigrant aliens’ who are citizens of Saudi Arabia (as well as Pakistan and Yemen) should be subject to ‘special registration’ – including fingerprinting and tracking,” Taranto wrote. “Immigrants from Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Libya and Syria already are subject to such restrictions, but given that none of the Sept. 11 hijackers were from those countries (15 were Saudi, one Egyptian, two Emirati and one Lebanese), it seems only logical to extend the program.”
AP refused to issue a clarification or correction on that story. WorldNetDaily has asked for one, again, on the hidden knives story.
But there’s even more to this story.
While AP is lifting WorldNetDaily copyright content seemingly at will without attribution or credit, the very same news organization has the nerve to threaten WorldNetDaily for using AP information in stories with full credit! Last May, AP’s legal department threatened a lawsuit against WND for copyright infringement for using fully attributed information in our stories. This is what we call in the business “fair use.”
Is this ethical disease in the journalism world contagious? Is it spreading like an epidemic throughout all the establishment news organizations? Is competition from the Internet driving the Big Media mad? Have these folks learned nothing from the Jayson Blair scandal?