“Estonia Opens an Embassy in Second Life”: UOL Considers the Source

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“Internet user catches the moment: Someone jumps from building in flames.” Not!
See Brazil: UOL Citizen Journalism Is Fake News

A consumer news medium in no culture or situation can declare its objectivity, fairness and communication integrity when gate-keeping decisions are influenced by factors that are unseen and unknown—such as occurs with “cash for news coverage.” This is especially true in societies that claim to be democratic and civil and humane. An attempt to present truth in a fair and objective manner and in a known context must be seen as a universal value when the value of truthfulness is declared, either explicitly or implicitly.International Index of Bribery for News Coverage (2003)

The Ombudsman do UOL (Brazil) jumps on the “consider the source” bandwagon.

Cozinhar: em jargão jornalístico, é reescrever texto publicado em outro veículo. O jornalista da Folha [e do UOL] não deve cozinhar textos, mas apurar informações ele mesmo. Quando é indispensável cozinhar _porque não foi possível apurar as informações em tempo e o jornal [o site] considera essencial que seu leitor tenha acesso a elas_, a Folha [o UOL] cita o nome do autor do texto e do veículo que o publicou.

“Cooking”: in journalistic jargon, the term means to rewrite an article published in another news source. The Folha journalist [and the UOL journalist] should not “cook” articles, but should uncover information on his or her own initiative. When it is is indispensable to “cook” — because it was not possible to corroborate the information in time and the newspaper [site] considers it essential that its reader have access to it — the Folha [UOL] cites the author of the text and the vehicle in which it was published.

Compare

G1/Globo reported on a firsthand witness to alleged fraud in the São Paulo bar exam, but did not mention the newspaper that originally published the story (the scrappy, regional Diário do ABC).

O Manual da Manual da Redação da Folha de S.Paulo deve ser adotado pelos jornalistas do UOL, segundo informa a gerência geral de qualidade de conteúdo do portal. O verbete acima parece não estar sendo seguido pelo blog de tecnologia do portal, o GigaBlog. A ombudsman recebeu questionamento sobre as fontes de informação usadas pelo blog e a falta de crédito para elas.

The Manual of the Editorial Manual [sic] of the Folha de S. Paulo ought to be adopted by UOL journalists, according to the general manager of quality control. The term defined above does not seem to be followed by UOL’s technology blog, GigaBlog. The ombudsman received messages questioning the sources of information used by the blog, and its failure to cite them.

The Folha, meanwhile, ought to follow its own manual more consistently. See

If that case were anomalous, I might still consider buying and reading the Folha. Which I don’t do.

(My wife subscribes to UOL, in the event I want to peek at it, so I guess some of our commingled funds support it anyway. I tried to talk her out of it, but the UOL portal, she says, has a lot of good stuff on it aside from its news content. And what my baby wants, my baby gets. I just dote on that guria, and spoil her rotten whenever I can.)

Do internauta Lucas: “Sugiro investigar a originalidade dos textos do blog UOL Tecnologia. Pelo menos dois tópicos são praticamente os mesmos que os postados no blog de tecnologia TechCrunch (www.techcrunch.com ). Creio que 1 – o UOL deveria investir mais em criar conteúdo em vez de replicar e 2 – deveria ser citada a fonte de onde o assunto foi retirado”.

Lucas the Internaut wrote: “I suggest you investigate the originality of the articles published on the UOL Technology blog. At least two posts are practically identical to posts from TechCrunch. I believe (1) that UOL ought to invest more in creating, rather than merely duplicating, content; and (2) the source from which the topic was taken should be cited.”

Lucas the Internaut? Does he have a last name, at least?

Speaking of full attribution to sources.

Com a ajuda do internauta, foi possível identificar mais de dois posts que coincidem com aqueles postados no blog TechCrunch. Até as imagens são as mesmas. As datas também.

With the assistance of the Internaut, it was possible to identify more than two posts which coincide with posts from TechCrunch. Even the images are the same. The dates, too.

There follows an exhaustive visual comparison of the posts in question, which I will omit.

  1. UOL’s Telefonando do navegador is compared to TechCrunch’s TringMe Develops Its Own Flash Phone.
  2. UOL’s Desenhe e publique na Web is compared to TechCrunch’s Marriage Made In Canada: ConceptShare And CorelDraw.

UOL copia post, foto e não dá crédito

[Photo caption] UOL copied the post and photo and did not credit the source.

Gisting:

  1. UOL’s Estônia lança embaixada no Second Life is compared to TechCrunch’s You’re Not In The USSR Any More: Estonia Opens An Embassy In Second Life.
  2. UOL’s Professor é processado por postagem ofensiva em blog is compared to TechCrunch’s Trolls Take Note: Teacher Arrested For Leaving Offensive Anonymous Comment On Blog
  3. UOL’s Planejando sua viagem is compared to TechCrunch’s TripIt Adds Calendar Sync, Travel Confirmations

Numa análise mais cuidadosa, foi possível perceber que o blog do UOL baseia-se, fundamentalmente, em quatro fontes: Wired, Dvice, TechCrunch e BetaNews e traz pouca ou nenhuma apuração original. O UOL não tem contrato autorizando-o a traduzir o conteúdo desses sites/blogs nem a publicar suas fotos. Para piorar, a cópia sistemática de informação alheia vem assinada como se os textos fossem de autoria de Charles Nisz. E a veiculação sistemática de fotos alheias vem sem crédito, como se tivessem surgido por “geração espontânea”.

With more careful analysis, it was possible to observe that the UOL blog based itself, fundamentally, on four sources: Wired, Dvice, TechCrunch and BetaNews, adding little or no original reporting. UOL does not have a contract authorizing it to translate content from these sites or blogs, or to publish their photos.

Have they complained? Are they howling about their victimization by the plagiarists of UOL?

What is worse, the systematic copying of information from another source is bylined as though Charles Nisz were their author. And the systematic publication of photos by others lacks photo credits, as if the images had arisen by “spontaneous generation.”

A related angle on this story: The quality of the source used. Is GigaBlog at least plagiarizing reliable sources, in other words?

Consider a TechCrunch editor’s defense of his publication against charges that it does not disclose its conflicts of interest:

It resorts to the cheapest cop-out the profession of Journalism 2.0 has to offer, basically:

Don’t look for the golden fountain of objectivity. It doesn’t exist.

“Golden fountain?”

Compare

PBS recognizes that the producer of informational content deals neither in absolute truth nor in absolute objectivity. Information is by nature fragmentary; the honesty of a program, Web site, or other content can never be measured by a precise, scientifically verifiable formula. Therefore, content quality must depend, at bottom, on the producer’s professionalism, independence, honesty, integrity, sound judgment, common sense, open mindedness, and intention to inform, not to propagandize.PBS Editorial Standards

Translation: I don’t have to disclose my conflicts of interest, and you can’t make me. Maybe there ought to be a law, but there isn’t. And law is the highest ethical standard.

It is important to know that UOL and those publications do not have a contract.

But is it possible that the UOL blog and some of those publications have sponsors or other institutional affiliations in common? Disclosed or undislosed?

How is it, for example, that every newspaper in the world who works with a certain Newspaper 2.0 consultancy considers Second Life and Wikipedia spectacularly newsworthy, for example?

From El País in Spain and Libération in France, to O Globo and the Estado de São Paulo in Brazil, and on to the Reuters news agency and quite a few American and British papers.

The image “https://i1.wp.com/i113.photobucket.com/albums/n216/cbrayton/Stuff/confiable.png” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.
El País (Spain), November 11, 2007: “Does Wikipedia content seem credible to you?” May not display properly in your off-brand (non-IE) browser. I voted no. I was able to vote no several times, in fact.

Some even have “news bureaus” in Second Life.

Is this topic really newsworthy enough to run a story on Second Life — and Wikipedia — practically every single day?

And so dominant in the market for massively-multiplayer role-playing games that competing and similar products are not even worth mentioning?
See

This smells an awful lot like stealth advertorial to me.

advertorial: an advertisement that is written and presented in the style of an editorial or journalistic report (WordNet); An advertisement that resembles a newspaper editorial or a television program but promotes a single advertiser’s product, service, or point of view. (Motto.com advertising glossary)

The point about sourcing and plagiarism is well-taken, but there is another issue to be gotten out of the way: Disposing of the suspicions that undisclosed institutional relationships might be behind such conduct.

What does the Folha manual say about that? See also

The burden is on editors who make Second Life a higher news priority than, say, Darfur or Chechnya, in terms of the ink spilled, to come clean and defend this editorial priority as an independent exercise of their news judgement, not swayed by any undeclared institutional affiliations.

A ombudsman pediu uma explicação à redação e ao autor do blog. Recebeu, apenas, resposta do gerente geral de notícias do portal, Rodrigo Flores: “em primeiro lugar, gostaria de agradecer ao internauta que apontou as similaridades entre o GigaBlog e o TechCrunch. Citar a fonte de uma informação é um princípio básico do jornalismo. A equipe responsável pelo GigaBlog está orientada para que incidentes como esses não voltem a acontecer.”

The ombudsman asked the editor and the blog author for an explanation. She received a reply only from the general manager of news for the portal, Rodrigo Flores: “In the first place, I would like to thank the Internaut for pointing out the similarities between GigaBlog and TechCrunch. Citing sources is a basic principle of journalism. The team responsible for GigaBlog has been counseled so that incidents like this will not occur again.”

O caso parece-me muito maior do que um simples “incidente”. O UOL deveria (como defende o Manual da Redação) perseguir informações exclusivas e não reproduzir, sem autorização, o trabalho alheio, mesmo que dê o crédito.

The case seems to me to be much more series than a mere “incident.” UOL ought, according to the editorial manual, to pursue exclusive information, not reproduce, without authorization, someone else’s work, even if it gives credit.

TechCrunch is licensed under the copyright, not some variant on the copyleft, model.

Which is very Web 1.0 of them.

Como ficam o direito autoral e a ética neste caso? Até porque o UOL, quando observa que seu material é copiado sistematicamente por outros sites (mesmo que lhe seja dado o crédito), coloca o departamento jurídico para trabalhar em sua defesa.

What of authorial rights and ethics in this case? When UOL, seeing that its content is copied systematically on other sites (even if it is given credit), puts its legal department to work in its defense.

Uh oh.

Oh, well, if issued a cease and desist letter, I will gladly take this note offline and hang onto it for private use only.

The world will probably not cease revolving if this blog is no longer included in that (tiny fraction) of the intellectual heritage of humanity that is indexed by the Googlebot.

I generally assume that because I earn no income from publishing my personal notetaking on the Web — and because I have about three readers, as far as I know — that the army of advogados com gel no cabelo will find better things to do than crack down on my gringo ass.

They seem to be plenty busy suing YouTube to halt the display of (former MTV veejay) Cicarelli’s ass.

But perhaps one should not underestimate the bloodthirstiness of the Brazilian law dog.

Remember the famous lawsuit between John Searle and Jacques Derrida?

It was over the book published in English as Limited, Inc., in which Derrida, critiquing Searle’s Speech Acts, incorporates the entire text of the same into his critique. In the style of a medieval scholia — interlinear and marginal commentary — really.

Chances are that your Bible contains vestiges of this practice: cross-references and notes in the margin referring to other parts of the text, or commentators on the interpretation of the verse.

A lot of postmodernist thought can be fairly meaningfully described as a form of neo-scholasticism. Not many people realize that. (Or care, to be honest.)

Searle sued Jacques the Derider for violation of the “fair use” provisions of the copyright laws.

So, yeah: I suspect the UOL Ombudsman is making a great show of diligence on a technical point here — and a valid one, mind you — while ignoring the larger issue.

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