Bloggers Accuse Mainstream Media Of 'Stealing' Couric Story

The cover story in Wednesday's New York Post has some bloggers crying foul.

The story, "How TV queen Katie lost 20 lbs. (and she didn't even know it)," accused CBS of altering a photo of anchorwoman Katie Couric to make her significantly slimmer. The Wednesday Post article said that the original photo was widely distributed to the media last month, while the slimmer, Photoshopped picture surfaced more recently in the CBS-produced magazine Watch!.

But what the article neglected to include was that MediaBistro's popular television blog, TV Newser, was the first to figure out what had happened, and then alert the world to the tinkered photograph in a post Tuesday afternoon.

The omission sent some prominent bloggers on the warpath. "The chutzpah involved in the New York Post putting the Couric photo on the cover, without anywhere crediting TVNewser--it's really audacious," said Rachel Sklar, an editor for the blogging site Huffington Post.

What's worse, she said, is that the Post article creates a false paper trail for further incorrect attributions by other reporters. "When the AP picked up on it, there was no credit for TVNewser." In fact, the Associated Press referenced a story about the photos that appeared in Wednesday's New York Daily News--which also failed to credit TV Newser.

But for bloggers, the issue extends beyond just the question of "credit." TVNewser is monetized with banner ads, and therefore depends at least in part on page impressions for income, but it won't benefit from increased traffic when local news sites pick up the AP story. "There could be a story in hundreds of papers tomorrow," said Brian Stelter, editor of TV Newser. "It's one of the biggest stories out there right now, but only the bloggers seem to know where it came from."

An editor at the Post defended the decision to print the story without mentioning TV Newser's contribution. "By yesterday [Tuesday] evening, the pictures were in so many places on the web, I don't believe credit was any longer an issue," he wrote in an e-mail to MediaBistro that was forwarded to OnlineMediaDaily. Once any news organization can confirm a news break on its own, credit is sort of out the window," the editor wrote.

But bloggers like Sklar disagree. "Brian Stelter posted that image at 1:50 a.m. yesterday [Tuesday], and by the time I posted on it, it was on Technorati with 42 links. The blogosphere awareness of where the story came from is clearly huge," she said.

Sklar said that she routinely observes newspapers taking story ideas from bloggers without any mention of crediting them. "It's symptomatic of a larger trend," she said. "The mainstream media picks over the blogosphere regularly, and big stories are absolutely picked up without attribution."

"The Post is doing fine," Sklar added. "Why not send a little love back?"