Thursday, July 8, 2010

MediaNews, others go after political blogger

Thousands of websites link to MediaNews Group newspapers every day, including Huffington Post, the Drudge Report, Yahoo's Newser, Google News and MSNBC. But MediaNews and other newspaper companies in Colorado have decided to target a single political blogger in Denver, sending him a cease-and-desist letter that demands he stop quoting or linking to their sites.

The offending blogger, Jason Bane (right) of Colorado Pols, has complied with the letter. But he has also talked to his lawyer and posted a response, saying that he has done nothing illegal and doubts he can be successfully sued for using something that is free.

From Colorado Pols:
    Not only are we posting only a few paragraphs from stories THAT ARE ALREADY FREE FOR EVERYONE ONLINE, we have gone out of our way to name the publication, highlight the author in particular, and provide a clear link to the story."

Bane also suggests that the folks at MediaNews (which owns most of the dailies in the Bay Area) don't have a clue about how the Internet works.

From Colorado Pols:
    So here's what we are going to do: Not only are we going to stop referencing passages from The Denver Post and other news outlets listed in this letter, but we're going to go one step further. We're going to go out of our way to not even mention these news outlets at all. 
    We'll just link to our partners at The Washington Post, or other local news sites, or any other of the thousands of other potential sources out there. 
    We reserve the right to discuss something that might appear in one of these papers, but we'll just do what traditional media outlets like the AP have done for decades -- we'll just say, "Humpty Dumpty fell off the wall today, according to The Denver Post," and then continue on with our own writing. [The Denver Post is owned by MediaNews.] 
    But for the most part, unless it is a truly important exclusive story that no other news outlet is reporting, you won't again see us talking about The Denver Post or the other news outlets listed below. 
    We aren't overestimating our own importance to say that not linking to the Post will have a major impact on their traffic, but it certainly won't help. The bigger point is that we lose absolutely nothing by deciding to cease from pulling a few paragraphs out of one of their stories, but the Post and their quality reporters lose plenty of exposure that comes from other links -- which, of course, is the lifeblood of the Internet.
The Colorado Pols site includes the cease-and-desist letter and a dissection of a memo MediaNews CEO Dean Singleton (left) sent to his employees last year to explain his online strategy.

After Bane posted his response, it got a note from Washington Times deputy editorial page editor David Mastlo that said: "Subject: poor, silly newspapers. I hope you'll be forgiving when they come crawling back. Feel free to link to us however you like." (Photo credits: Singleton, MediaNews website; Bane, Westword.)

Update, 2:30 p.m.: Here's how the Denver alt-weekly Westword is covering the story. And here's a lengthy report from a political newspaper, the Colorado Statesman.


Anonymous said...

Looks like somebody at MediaNews needs a refresher course in the meaning of the term "fair use".

Anonymous said...

Newspaper websites, like those owned by MediaNews, live or die on whether their stories get links from Google News or Drudge. A Drudge link can mean a million hits a day--something that helps a website manager meet or beat their quota. If MediaNews publications keep pissing off blogs like ColoradoPols, they'll lose the click-throughs that keep their newspaper sites alive. Granted we're not talking about a lot of hits from ColoradoPols alone, but many more bloggers or web publishers will see this controversy and decide to avoid linking to MediaNews stories.

Anonymous said...

More brilliance by Dean Singleton!

Anonymous said...

Can anyone name even one newspaper that Singleton bought and improved. Everything he touches turns to shit. Now he's dragging AP down.

Anonymous said...

" the AP have done for decades." Go ahead - but pay like AP members have "done for decades."
True, you can't steal something that's free - as long as you don't make money off it. Why buy a cow when milk's so cheap?