Twofish's Blog

August 28, 2009

Getting news wholesale – Notes on the New York Times article

Filed under: china — Tags: — twofish @ 2:07 am

The blog post that I did a few days ago on the Sanlu trial got me into an interesting argument over Chinalaw, but while I was researching this, I found some interesting coincidences between a NYT article and a SSRN article on punitive damages,

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/26/us/26punitive.html

http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=945197

Looking at the NYT article and the SSRN paper, it seems obvious what the NYT reporter did. You can do a fact by fact comparison, and every fact and point in the NYT article seems to have originated in the journal article that was the basis for SSRN paper.  The NYT reporter does cite and credit the paper and its author John Y. Gotanda for one quote, but he doesn’t mention that basically all of the facts in the article come from that one paper.

They started with the SSRN paper, and then used this to as a template in which they tracked down some of the people mentioned in the SSRN article and then interviewed them.  This isn’t a bad way of writing a news article, and the NY Times article does have some “value added” in that they went through and interviewed the people involved in some of the cases.

But I do wonder if this is a particularly got way of doing journalism.  The thing that sort of annoyed me was that they didn’t hyperlink the NYT article to the paper, which would have saved me a lot of time.  One problem with hyperlinking the article is that at that point it would have been obvious how much of the article was actually written and researched by the law professor rather than the reporter.

This gets at the problem about why newspapers are failing.  The problem is that newspapers still think of themselves as a monopoly on information.  I read the article on punitive damage awards and think to myself.  Gee, I want to know more about punitive damages awards, where can I find it?  At that point the news monopoly just says “sorry, you just get your news from us.”

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