The reporter has become the reported-on.
I complained on social media recently after Fox News’ Caleb Parke rewrote one of my Christian Chronicle stories without doing any of his own reporting. I never could get a response from Parke, whose verified Twitter profile says he covers “faith & values but my favorite stories are #GoodNews.”
After my first complaint, Fox attributed a second quote to my Chronicle story but didn’t deal with the bigger issue of passing off our original piece as its own. And Parke and Fox felt no need to reply to me directly.
That might have been the end of it, except that Kelly McBride, a leading media ethics expert who serves as senior vice president of the Poynter Institute, took an interest in my case.
Today, Poynter published McBride’s lengthy piece calling out Fox News’ “repurposing” of other publications’ religion stories without proper credit.
Spoiler alert: She says a lot of really cool things about me that my mom will really enjoy, such as calling me a “nice-guy church newspaper editor based in Oklahoma City.” My boss particularly relished that line, given the grumpiness that I occasionally display on deadline.
But for those interested in religion reporting in the news media (that would be you, dear GetReligion reader), McBride’s comments on Fox’s practice of relying on other publications’ hard work will be particularly relevant.
Such as this:
It’s clear that this is about return on investment. Fox could easily have religion reporters out there turning up original stories the way Ross and his team do. But that would mean they would only get one story a day or even a week out of a reporter, not three or four. But fewer stories means a smaller audience.
Alternatively, Fox could subscribe to the Religion News Service, a wire service devoted to creating original stories about religion, as well as sharing content generated by other publications, including The Christian Chronicle. “We do not subscribe to this service,” a Fox spokesperson said by email. “We monitor them like we would any reliable news outlet and aggregate content when we find it compelling and worthy of our standards.”
When you look closely at what news organizations invest resources in — original reporting vs. simply repeating the work of others — you can get a window into what the company values.
In a tweet before the Poynter report came out, I stressed that this is not a partisan thing for me:
Even though McBride’s piece concerns something I wrote, her larger take on aggregation and religion reporting is definitely worth your time.
By all means, check it out. Feel free to come back here with any comments or questions.