The difference between news reporting and not

Happy March. What an interesting day yesterday was.

First, Kotaku got a rumor and made it into a responsibly worded rumor news story through good old-fashioned piecing it together. They did such a good job that Sony promptly severed all relations, then made up when someone realized the independent online media was not something owned by the vast Sony empire. For everything negative said about the state of “journalism” in the games industry, this fact-finding and connecting the dots is what legitimate reporters do, and Sony’s tactic of trying to silence them is absolultely inexcusable. But props to Kotaku for sticking by their story.

And then we have the other side. In less explosive news, a guy made a robot to get him a few Xbox 360 Achievements. I spotted the story on Next-Gen, which sourced the BBC, as did several other outlets out there. But dig deeper and you’ll find this blog entry which seems to have kicked it off almost a full week earlier. Its first line? “I saw this in OXM.”

Now we’re getting somewhere.

I’d wager that the BBC saw that post (or a copy of that post from one of the aggregators that pinged the site back when they picked it up) or possibly saw a copy of OXM US, and created their story the following week. But — there’s no way to put this without making it sound arrogant — we had the story first, and the internet, assuming print is dead, didn’t notice. It was fascinating when the BBC printed it but apparently less so when we printed it some time earlier. David Harr totally deserves as much exposure as possible for his creation because it’s a labor of love and he’s a smart guy (and was super accomodating; we shot custom photos of the xBot for that issue and he trusted us enough to ship it to us without an armed escort).

That’s not my objection. My objection is that the bulk of the interwebs sourced the BBC and did no further research. The BBC did not link to David’s site, so none of the stories that source the BBC list David’s site. Certainly, seeing the YouTube video or the creator’s detailed webpage would be considered a newsworthy link in this story? (The original blogger thought so.) But they’re nowhere in the bulk of online coverage. That means nobody actually did any work; they just came up with a few pithy comments (one site offered moral objections and linked to a story on game sweatshops, but never actually found this other data) and shuffled the facts around, borrowed the same photo, and reposted the same info, only smaller.

The upside for me, of course, would have been that if anybody had done any sort of additional investigation, they would have found David’s site…which is features several overt references to OXM as still a relevant, albeit print-based, source of information. Here’s one of David’s shots from his site:

So. This is not just me going “waaah waaah, I want free publicity.” (I contacted Next Gen and asked why we were not sourced; since we’re both part of Future, they added a line noting that we have a story as well, which was kind of them, and said next time, I should be helping them break interesting stories like this. Okay. I kind of thought I already did break that interesting story, by interviewing the guy and writing the text and having the photos shot, but I see their point.) But on a larger and more important scale than my petty bid for glory, I see this is another example of people making copies of copies of news stories and nobody actually doing their homework.

So, scary day for Kotaku, but an important one. For everybody else, it’s just another busy day of lazy coverage.

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