Guest Post: The Jamaica Observer’s Tweet Theft

Image from http://www.editorandpublisher.com

Last week I was perusing my TL as Jamaicans paid avid attention to the Jamaica vs. Mexico football match.  Sure we came away with a draw (should have been 3-0, which is, ironically at the root of this post) and you’d think that’s what I’d remember most about the night: we earned a draw at the Azteca! But nah.  What I remember is that The Jamaica Observer, one of Jamaica’s two newspapers, stole a tweet from DJBrucki.  I’ve already taken this newspaper to task for its (expected meaningful) role in society, its product, and its ethics so I wasn’t really surprised though I was disgusted.  A new low.  It’s one thing when Murray steals a tweet from Clarice but a nation’s newspaper stealing a tweet? Just up and t’ief suh? What does this illustrate about how the rest of the paper is produced? What exactly is acceptable to its management?  How are employees trained about ethics, ethics in journalism, and social media ethics? Folks blather on about privacy being an ancient concept and about content being free for all; I disagree.  There are still some necessary boundaries that need to be maintained.  Below is a succinct account of the events, including follow up by @kelster.  Email addresses have been redacted and names shortened to protect privacy but those are the only edits that have been made.  Of note is that DJBrucki has been unblocked by The Jamaica Observer’s Twitter account thanks to the actions of its more sensible and savvy employees.  But a problem still remains that we should not forget.

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Stealing someone’s content really pisses me off. Maybe it is because “cite your sources” is something I repeatedly tell my research methods students. However, this is something I stick to outside of formal writing.  Share a cutesy picture on Facebook? I include a link to the source. See a tweet that I like? I use the retweet button or “RT”. It’s pretty simple really. For some reason, neither of these options was acceptable to the Jamaica Observer on February 6. They saw the following tweet by DJ Brucki:

DJBrucki's Tweet (Image provided by @kelster; click the image to be taken to the actual Twitter location)

DJBrucki’s Tweet (Image provided by @kelster; click the image to be taken to the actual Twitter location)

They liked it and wanted to share it with their followers so they copied it and added two hashtags.

Jamaica Observer's Tweet 9Image provided by @kelster; click the link to see the tweet on Twitter)

Jamaica Observer’s Tweet (Image provided by @kelster; click the link to see the tweet on Twitter)

I was not the only person to note this on Twitter and several immediately pointed this out to the Observer. I am sure they had several mentions that night since most of Jamaica and the diaspora were following the Jamaica v. Mexico football match. It’s understandable that they did not respond so on Thursday morning, I emailed their marketing department to discuss the issue. On Friday morning, I received an email from G telling me to state my case. I did: 

Kelly <xxxxx@gmail.com> Fri, Feb 8, 2013 at 12:08 PM
To: G <xxxx@jamaicaobserver.com>
Good day,  On February 6, at the end of the Reggae Boyz match, djbrucki tweeted the following: So, when are we going to hold our strikers accountable for missing scorable goals? Just asking… A couple minutes later, your account tweeted the following: Are we going to hold our strikers accountable for missing scorable goals? Just asking… #ReggaeBoyz #WCQ Several users immediately noted that this was copied from djbrucki but those tweets to your Twitter handle were not responded to. It is highly unlikely that the person using your Twitter account just happened to use exactly the same words and even included the “just asking” complete with ellipses. 

 

Both the tweets that I have copied above include the direct link to the tweets so that you can see the time stamps and judge for yourself. I have also attached screenshots.

 

 

Kelly

I expected G to respond with an apology for DJ Brucki and perhaps state that they would discuss this internally. Instead, what I got was an email basically telling me that I was an idiot:

G <xxxx@jamaicaobserver.com>

Fri, Feb 8, 2013 at 1:53 PM

To: Kelly <xxxxx@gmail.com>
Thanks. The issues with the tweet was noted yesterday and efforts were made to find @djbrucki tweet that you noted. Things like this often happen   when live events are being covered. If you follow @JamaicaObserver you will note that earlier in the day we did a re-tweet of @cedellamarley post and she was credited for it. We are not allowed to steal tweets as individuals like yourself will take us to task over it.  Every idea worth having has been had thousands of times already, things like this has happen before and will happen in the future. Humans run the account, not robots and individuals vent @JamaicaObserver often expecting a response that will not happen, especially when covering a live event. Although the account is handled by humans, they must act in the company’s interest at all times as this is a media house. The individual handling the account has to be very focus and is under extreme pressure to ensure we get our tweets out first with grammar,etc. correct. The two tweets are similar but the tone of both are different. ‘So, when” is different that “Are we”. People can make the same case for other tweets posted by us on the night. For example, ‘great save’, or calling Ricketts the ‘man of the match’. People ‘appear’ to steal our tweets too but we have to give them ‘the benefit of the doubt’ as every idea worth having has been had thousands of times already. Especially when people are watching and commenting on the same event.Thanks for highlighting the issue.

Are you insulted? Because I certainly was. Let’s go through this. First, G wants to say that the Jamaica Observer is a paragon of virtue – just yesterday, they retweeted Cedella Marley! Well, kudos to you Observer. You actually know how to retweet and give credit. Now do you know how to do this for non-celebrities? Apparently, they are not allowed to steal tweets. I am glad that he pointed this out because, honestly, I was not sure what their tweet theft policy was. This matter would be resolved quickly then.

Every idea worth having has been had thousands of times already, things like this has happen before and will happen in the future.

I don’t think I like where this is going.

Humans run the account…

 I suspect robots might be better at giving credit.

The two tweets are similar but the tone of both are different. ‘So, when” is different that “Are we”.

This is where I lost my mind. Either G did not read the tweets or G thinks that I am an idiot. Perhaps I should have included credentials? Given myself a celebrity name? If he wants to talk about tone, perhaps, we should. Go ahead; peruse the Jamaica Observer twitter feed. Tell me how many times colloquialisms such as “just saying…” are used.  But all of that is moot because G’s comment is simply ridiculous! The individual in control of the account deleted the first two words. That did not change the tone. I wonder what G’s operational definition of tone is. G didn’t think he had insulted me enough though, so he goes on to tell me that it is similar to ‘great save’ and ‘man of the match”.  No, G, it certainly is not. He then gives me the “every idea worth having” line again. This time, I can clearly see it for what it is – patronizing bullshit. I tried to keep my cool when I sent the following reply:

Kelly <xxxxx@gmail.com>

Fri, Feb 8, 2013 at 1:59 PM

To: G <xxxx@jamaicaobserver.com> 
I’m sorry. Did you actually read the tweets? The “tones” are not different. On your account, the “so when” from @djbrucki’s tweet was deleted and hashtags were added. I understand that humans control your social media but I do not think this is a case of the tweets being “similar”.  This is not like “great save” or “man of the match”. I would not have contacted you if it was something that simple. Would you like me to believe that the person controlling your account really just happened to have those EXACT words in the EXACT order – even the, “just asking” and the ellipses? That was a copied tweet. Now that you know where to find @djbrucki’s tweet, please act accordingly. 
<xxxx@jamaicaobserver.com>

Fri, Feb 8, 2013 at 2:28 PM

To: Kelly <xxxxx@gmail.com>
Point taken.
Have a great day.

I knew that “point taken” was G’s way of shutting me up. I was too angry to continue the conversation though and wanted to wait to see what they would do next. A few hours later, I had my answer. My good friends at the Jamaica Observer decided that the best way to deal with this was to block DJ Brucki on Twitter. Yes, you read that right. They stole his tweet and then blocked him. I guess now they can no longer steal tweets from him but the rest of Twitter is a free-for-all.

This may seem like a minor matter to some but it starts with a tweet. Then what next? Can we trust that the journalists at the Jamaica Observer write their own content? Or, since every idea has already been had a thousand times, they are comfortable with copying from the Jamaica Gleaner or perhaps the less widely read Sunday Herald? Based on G’s email, one could simply change the first sentence. This would make the two articles similar, but the tones would be different. Someone alert AP, APA and MLA! We have new plagiarism rules.

Content theft happens every day on the Internet. I have seen major organisations use bloggers’ pictures, recipes and blog posts without giving credit. I have seen people argue that it is OK because “it’s the internet”.  It is simply not OK and never will be.  You may not have spent a considerable amount of time composing the 140 characters for your tweet or the 250 words for a blog post. I may not either. However, that still does not give anyone the right to lift it and present it as his/her own. It is absolutely shameful that a media organisation would do this and then act as if they did nothing wrong. As of Sunday, February 10, 2013 at 5 PM, the tweet is still on Jamaica Observer’s account and they still have not reached out to offer an apology. I will not just sit back and let this one slide. We need to start holding our media organisations accountable for everything that they publish and I am going to start with this tweet.

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Comments
4 Responses to “Guest Post: The Jamaica Observer’s Tweet Theft”
  1. Ree says:

    Great Job! I am stil not sure what that Cedalla Marley reference was supposed to mean, expect we know how to give credit but you are not important enough for us to credit.

  2. “…People can make the same case for other tweets posted by us on the night. For example, ‘great save’, or calling Ricketts the ‘man of the match……” – JO

    A repititious use of a catch phrase is very different from using someone’s actual SENTENCE.
    Aeeii bway….

  3. bethpow06 says:

    Ah bwoy. I am going to stop thinking now since it is impossible for me to have an original thought. On a picky note – interesting that they are committed to grammar and correctness yet the email did not suggest they apply it to all their correspondence! Grammar check people – it only works if you use it!

  4. Earle says:

    With havin so much content and articles do you ever run into any problems of plagorism or
    copyright violation? My blog has a lot of unique content
    I’ve either created myself or outsourced but it looks like a lot of it is popping it up all over the internet without my permission. Do you know any methods to help protect against content from being ripped off? I’d genuinely appreciate it.

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