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Editor slams national news site for ‘stealing’ exclusive quotes

A regional daily editor has hit out at a national news website which failed to credit one of her journalists.

Samantha Harman has criticised Mail Online for “stealing” quotes obtained by Oxford Mail crime reporter Fran Way for an exclusive about Thames Valley Police and Crime Commissioner Anthony Stansfeld.

Mr Stansfeld admitted using his professional email account to warn a man of police action in a bid to try to help a billionaire’s ex-wife find his missing millions.

But, after the exclusive was published on yesterday’s front page, pictured, the story was followed up by Mail Online without giving credit to Fran, although the site did later add an attribution to the Oxford Mail.

Oxford PCC

The episode prompted Samantha to criticise the national site on Twitter, saying Fran had been “completely mugged off” after it failed to acknowledge the source of its quotes.

Samantha told HTFP: “I don’t think people realise just how much of the content they see on nationals comes from the local press.

“If we have a good story, we can almost guarantee it’s on a national homepage by lunchtime. And that’s fine – when they credit us. If they acknowledged the hard work and hours that a young reporter spent getting that story right. If they linked back to our story.

“I think this is part of a wider issue in terms of public education as to what local press actually does, and how vital we are to democracy. The rebuff I had from a couple of people on Twitter was ‘well it gets syndicated by an agency, so you don’t need acknowledgement’.

“The chain goes like this; local news provider writes story – agency takes story and sells it to national – national uses story and generates revenue in page views/subscriptions.

“If people don’t realise the value of, or invest in, the source of the stories, i.e. local newspapers, what do you think happens? No more stories from that local news source – agencies have less content to sell to nationals – nationals struggle.  And more importantly, the public misses out on open democracy. Local news services are absolutely vital in holding power to account.

“Secondly, not every story is syndicated through agencies. We’ve had dozens of examples of nationals taking what they like without going through the agency. That’s stealing. There are some ‘agencies’ and news publications which are renowned for it.

“Obviously we want our stories to be read and for them to have the impact they deserve. The only thing the local press is asking for is a little acknowledgement. We’re a very important part of the industry and we need support.”

Samantha said that one national title had even rung her up for help after being hit with an IPSO complaint for a story it had lifted from the paper.

“We recently had a national publication rip off a court story of ours [and] embellish with details not said in court, or in our report,” she said.

“Then, when they got an IPSO complaint, they called me and asked me to help them with their defence. They couldn’t understand why I was peeved they’d ripped off our work, then had the audacity to call me and ask for a favour?

HTFP has approached Mail Online for a comment.


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  • November 22, 2019 at 11:01 am

    Yes, it”s an absolute sickener and typical of Mail Online, which is even hated by Mail staff who see their stories lifted and broken – and often handed appalling heads, standfirsts and blob intros.
    Worse for regionals, though once the rule was once our publication was out, we were free to sell on. Mention that to a young journo today and they’re not only bemused, but wonder where we got those stories if nobody had ‘sent them in..’
    I’d bung the Mail an invoice pronto!

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  • November 22, 2019 at 11:33 am

    This happened to me once also when I broke an exclusive about Britain’s largest hoard of bronze age gold being discovered. The sneaky freelancer for The Times, who was actually at the inquest, stole my story almost word for word. Why even bother to turn up for the inquest when you can cut and paste? Often we would have the local radio ‘steal’ our stories as well – you could hear them rustling through it under the microphone.

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  • November 22, 2019 at 12:57 pm

    I was lucky! Had a ‘freelance’ deal with BBC local and I got paid £2.60 for a story, even when it was their lead Item! Still, not as bad as The West Briton when it commissioned me for the duration to cover an old style committal of a gang of High-end burglars. In the end, it took a day and restrictions were not lifted, tho evidence was sifted and it would have been a good yarn.
    Submitted the agreed bill but they reneged and said would only pay lineage. I got A statement for 21 lines at 0.9p per line and a cheque for 19p signed by two directors and sent via first class post,
    Finally assured them that I would not cash it as their need was obviously greater than mine and I still have both. Sadly, I couldn’t send them change of 0.1p …!

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  • November 22, 2019 at 2:09 pm

    Odd. We’ve had two exclusives picked up by MailOnline and they’ve given our hyperlocal site a credit on both occasions.

    It was probably one bad apple.

    Their newsdesk has always been easy to work with and accomodating when I suggested a change to their story.

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