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Online Journalism Ethics: The Link and Attribution Game

Interwebs Yesterday, Judge Carton ruled on the case of the woman suing Google on the theory that relying on Google Maps walking directions absolves users of all responsibility to employ their own senses, such as sight, hearing, and common. (BTW, since we're allowed to appoint ourselves to the bench around here, Judge Carton's ruling granting Google's future motion to dismiss is AFFIRMED.)

There's a sidebar to this story that I, as a blogger, thought should get a little more play. Danny Sullivan (no, not the race car driver Danny Sullivan featured in my last post) of Search Engine Land claims to have had the original scoop on the Rosenberg v. Google story. His initial post on the lawsuit went up at 5:36 p.m. last Friday, May 28. Having done an unscientific, nonexhaustive search (using Google, perhaps ironically), his claims seem to hold water; I was unable to find the story posted anywhere else on the Web earlier than that.

But Sullivan believes the "mainstream media" stole his story, without proper attribution (a position to which I was alerted by a comment on the WSJ Law Blog's post about the suit, which does not cite or link to Sullivan). That much funnier, he says, because the big boys so often accuse bloggers of that very offense. His post on his personal blog goes into painstaking detail about the chronology of the story's proliferation out here on the interwebs, and who linked, or failed to link, to whom. Certain of the media outlets called out by Sullivan rectified the situation to his satisfaction, by linking back to Search Engine Land and/or naming it as the initial source of the story on the suit.

The comments on Sullivan's post contain a spirited discussion of journalistic Netiquette, and are worth a perusal. Here at Legal Blog Watch, we try our damnedest to document where we get our material. But what is the extent of a blogger's responsibility to drill down to the "scooper?" How many levels of "Hat Tip"s and "Via"s are required? Does the reader care who broke the story initially, and if he does, should he just Google it himself?

Posted by Eric Lipman on June 3, 2010 at 12:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)


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