Aggregation: Filtering or Stealing?

18 Jan

Aggregated by: Gabriela Gonzalez

In the average person’s mind, the word aggregation means to add. In journalism, the concept means rewriting a story with no additional reporting, according to Matthew Ingram. It can also mean taking parts of many articles and weaving them together with attribution for each respective excerpt or “lift.”

According to Poynter’s Kelly McBride, “the [aggregation] ethics [have been] evolving over the last two or three years, but they are not completely evolved.”

The Washington Post Managing Editor Raju Narisetti said, “When done right, aggregation can provide readers with a quick and easy way to keep up with news about topics that interest them.”

Huffington Post spokesman, Mario Ruiz, said, its goal is “to point to the best content available on the Web.”

Mallory Jean Tenore said aggregation fills gaps and filters.

When aggregating, it is important to attribute early so the reader notices the aggregation, said Josh Voorhees, editor of the Slatest.

It is also important to put the emphasis on the voices of the original sources, not the aggregator’s individual voice, said Dale Hrabi,’s editorial director.

All of these precautions and suggestions are useful in the face of aggregation’s evolving ethics because aggregation can easily become stealing said Bill Keller of the New York Times.

According to Matthew Ingram, the Miami Herald has an issue with the Huffington Post aggregating from its stories.

He continued saying that while the Huffington Post’s rewritten pieces repeat many of the basic facts that appear in the original articles, the writer always attributes the news to the Herald. For example:

“Not only was Cruz-Govin speeding, according to the Herald, he was a habitual texter. On the day of the accident, records show he sent 127 texts, the Herald reports.”

Ingram said the story the Huffington Post did was better than the Miami Herald’s story because it included more information and links.

A Herald reporter said in response, “Sure they link to our stories, but who’s going to click through after they’ve read the entire story on the Huffington Post?”

Kyle Munzenrieder said, “They might have a higher horse to sit on if the Herald didn’t aggregate so damn much itself.”

Munzenrieder said, that at least the Huffington Post links back when it aggregates. The Herald, however, aggregates as well but doesn’t bother linking to the source story.

The Herald, however, is not the only one complaining about the Huffington Post. Simon Dumenco, a media columnist, who wrote a piece about the Twitter Anthony Weiner scandal on the Ad Age website, said to the American Journalism Review that even though the Post linked twice, they summarized it so well, there was no incentive left for the person to click.

Frédéric Filloux called the Huffington Post “the smartest digital news machine ever and, at the same time, the mother of all news internet impostures.”

Filloux said to those who have felt ripped-off by the Huffington Post, “That’s the internet, baby.”  He suggests to the publisher who doesn’t want his articles to be “stolen” that he should make it so that it is only accessible to those who pay for an application.

Filloux said the Huffington Post shouldn’t always be blamed, but it must be recognized as an innovator in the art of aggregation.

The question remains: How much is too much?

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