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Hyperlocals chief ‘disheartened’ by editor’s comments over payment demands

Emma MeeseThe hyperlocal news trade body has hit back at a regional daily editor’s claim that it is “unrealistic” for its members to expect payment from other outlets which follow up their stories.

HTFP reported earlier this month how Marc Reeves, who edits the Birmingham Mail and its sister website Birmingham Live, said he does not believe larger news organisations “should seek permission or make payments” to pursue stories initially published by hyperlocals.

But Emma Meese, director of Cardiff-based hyperlocal trade body the Independent Community News Network, has described Marc’s comments as “disheartening” and says some regional journalists’ decision to republish original hyperlocal stories verbatim is “not acceptable”.

In an interview with journalist Jane Haynes, who runs Worcestershire-based site Wyre Life, Marc said he could not foresee a scenario where he was “going to sack a reporter” to pay hyperlocals to provide copy for him, but added he was open to other forms of collaboration with such titles.

Responding to his comments, Emma said: “We would never advocate his suggestion of sacking a reporter to pay a hyperlocal or group of hyperlocals to provide copy, however neither do we condone his attitude that they can simply take what they want from our members or other hyperlocals without payment.

“Content that is in the public domain still needs crediting, and its author still needs remunerating. Somebody put a lot of hours and effort into getting those quotes and writing that particular story; to republish it verbatim, which is what we are seeing a lot of, is not acceptable, nor is it ethical journalistic practice.”

Cardiff University’s Centre for Community Journalism last month secured funding from Google to develop its Value My News project, which is aimed at helping hyperlocal titles make money from stories they publish and enabling them to track other organisations picking up their content online.

The development came after Emma raised concerns from members earlier this year that their content was being “stolen” by bigger publishers.

Emma added: “I could not have been any clearer that collaboration had to mean exactly that and outlined dozens of examples why community and hyperlocal news publishers were wary of any kind of partnership after years of having their content stolen by larger news organisations. We agreed to open lines of communication and see if we could form a working partnership that would benefit both sides, so it is disheartening to hear these comments now being made by a Reach editor.

“It is not only surprising to hear an editor say he sees the closure of hyperlocal publications as a ‘betrayal’ to their communities, whilst hammering a nail in their coffin by taking their content without any financial reward, but it is also hypocritical given that Trinity (Reach plc) has closed more newspapers than any other regional publishers in recent times.

“However, Reeves’ comments further evidence a need for Value My News (VMN), which we are working on with the Media Innovation Studio at the University of Central Lancashire.

“The VMN platform will serve as a hyperlocal news agency and will provide a fair way to share the excellent content created by ICNN members further up the news food chain. VMN not only promises to be innovative, but it aims to address the inequities in local journalism that will be of benefit to journalism and the communities it serves.”


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  • August 28, 2018 at 9:18 am

    It’s ridiculous in my opinion to suggest that any paper pays for following up a story published by another.
    Except, TM and Northcliffe newsdesks used to sell stories and pix to the nationals and agencies on a daily basis.
    So there is very much a precedent.
    However, it seems Reach just take news and clickbait gossip from the web willy nilly without any effort.
    So, Marc Reeves is being disingenuous talking about ‘sacking’ a journalist to pay for news.

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  • August 28, 2018 at 10:56 am

    I’m sorry Emma, I’m afraid you’re being a touch naïve here. When you claim that content that’s in the public domain “still needs crediting, and its author still needs remunerating”, you are simply wrong. Once it’s in the public domain it’s free to use, otherwise you’ll be wanting payments for every tweet, Facebook post and Youtube video that leads to a story. Don’t you think that weekly / daily regional journos put a lot of hours and effort into getting those quotes and writing that particular story when bigger fish lift them? But I do agree that republishing stories verbatim is not acceptable, as well as being risky and downright lazy

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  • August 28, 2018 at 11:35 am

    Journalism is a competitive activity, and follow-ups are entirely legitimate. Lifting material verbatim isn’t journalism, and shouldn’t happen, but I don’t think that is what Marc Reeves was suggesting anyway.

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  • August 29, 2018 at 4:56 pm

    It is lazy. I have just had part of a report lifted word for word by Reach. Info that the reporter could have spent a little time finding and writing for themselves. They have taken my report as proof that the main subject of the report is confirmed, let’s hope no-one asks them how or where they got that confirmation

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