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Editorial chief hits out after agency ‘steals’ grieving mum’s quotes

An independent publisher has hit out at a “lazy” news agency which “stole” a grieving mother’s quotes from a story it originally ran.

KM Group editorial director Ian Carter has criticised Wessex News Agency after quotes and pictures obtained by KM reporter Katie Davis were lifted by the agency and subsequently appeared in the Daily Mail and The Sun.

Katie had interviewed a mother, Crystal Venus, about the death of her 11-week-old baby girl, with the original story appearing in the group’s Thanet Extra newspaper and on its Kent Online website.

Ms Venus emailed Wessex after the story later appeared in the national press, but the agency responded that it had “assumed” she would have no objections to the story appearing nationally in order to “raise awareness” of sudden infant death syndrome.

Ian, pictured, has since contacted the Daily Mail about the matter, as well as David Dinsmore, who is News UK’s chief operating officer and also serves as chairman of the News Media Association.

Ian told HTFP: “Nobody objects to seeing their stories followed up – it’s always happened. What I do object to most strongly is lazy news agencies simply copying and pasting words and downloading pictures from our websites and passing it off as their own work without making any attempt to develop it.

“We have our own syndication arrangements in place via South West News Service, which means our reporters benefit when their stories are sold on. Crucially though we also retain control of what is sent out – the people we feature are made aware their stories may appear further afield, and we always respect their wishes if they do not want this to happen.

“When the likes of Wessex come along and simply steal stories, it completely undermines the bond of trust with our readers. I’ve contacted David Dinsmore in his capacity both at the News Media Association and News UK and I have been very encouraged by his response.”

Ms Venus told Katie how her daughter Sapphire Brady had died in July after she stopped breathing at her home in Margate.

She has launched a Facebook page called Sapphire’s Neverland Angels to raise awareness of sudden infant death syndrome and raise money for Cuddle Cots.

Wessex’s response to Ms Venus, posted on Twitter by Ian, states: “I’m sorry if this has upset you, particularly as it is such a raw time for you, but we are an agency tasked with looking at local newspaper websites and we saw the story and photos on the local paper and also the reference to your fund-raising website, which we looked at.

“We assumed that as you had given the story and photos to the local paper, you would have no objections to national publicity, to raise awareness and also help with the fund-raising.

“Did you not want this publicity, which would reach many people?”

Other regional journalists including Eastern Daily Press health correspondent Geri Scott have also shared their experiences of Wessex on Twitter.  HTFP has approached Wessex for a comment.

7 comments

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  • September 14, 2018 at 9:39 am
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    Mr Carter has been in the business long enough to know this happens all the time. Very annoying for local papers but a sad fact of life in an increasingly desperate journalism industry. Cheap trick though.

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  • September 14, 2018 at 9:45 am
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    It’s happened to me on more than one occasion. I remember I once interviewed a man who’d found a rare death’s head hawk moth caterpillar (the species from Silence of the Lambs) in his garden and called it Fred, or something similarly innocuous.

    It appeared in several national tabloids a few days later, except it falsely claimed he’d found two caterpillars and named them Hannibal and Lecter, and contained a mix of genuine quotes stolen from my story and stuff they’d just flat-out made up.

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  • September 14, 2018 at 10:42 am
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    If Ian is that annoyed, he should offer his retained legal assistance to claim copyright damage from the news agency for stealing the images and selling them on. Ignorance of photography copyright law is no excuse and she should get some money out of the agency.

    Local papers do tend to sell stories on and not give anything to the people who suppled the images, which is just as bad as they are profiteering from someone else’s copyright.

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  • September 14, 2018 at 12:12 pm
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    Unless a deal is done or the photographer is employed then the copyright of a photograph always belongs to the photographer. The grey area comes fron the definition of employed.

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  • September 14, 2018 at 12:24 pm
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    Wessex’s response is so disingenuous it beggars belief – “did you not want the publicity?” as if that is remotely the point? This incident says all we need to know about that company’s ethics and business practices.

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  • September 15, 2018 at 4:25 pm
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    Wessex News are notorious serial offenders.
    They brazenly ripped off story after story when I ran Archant’s syndications operation despite being warned off.
    It’s one thing freelances and agencies diligently following up strong local newspaper tales.
    But lazy, cheap and nasty pilfering to cut, paste and plunder proper journalists’ hard-won copy is totally unacceptable and should be stamped out.

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