We don't own the news we break

MG Siegler complains that the Wall Street Journal failed to credit him when covering a story he earlier scooped at TechCrunch: Apple Acquires Chomp.

The Wall Street Journal Is Fucking Bullshit

Earlier today, I broke some news.

I don’t typically do this anymore given my new job. But from time to time this will happen. But if you read The Wall Street Journal, you’d never know. Why’s that? Because they’re fuckheads who don’t credit actual sources of information.

The WSJ's omission is rude, for sure. How hard is it to begin a sentence with "First reported by MG Siegler at TechCrunch," or somesuch? Other venues, including Bloomberg, did exactly that. WSJ reporter Jessica Vascellaro's tweets also suggest that Siegler's post is how she knew about the story, after all.

But she didn't have to credit Siegler as her source of information because she got Apple on the record to tell her itself. She had a more direct source.

Siegler's scoop was fantastic, but getting it wasn't the news. Apple buying Chomp was the news. No-one owes us politeness, and hearing a story first doesn't make us part of the story. It gives us a first-mover advantage. Isn't that enough?


  1. I remember hearing this type of rant in middle school:

    “Jessie told Sally that Susan likes Billy, but Jessie heard it from me and she didn’t say so!”

  2. However, while such behavior is not forbidden, it certainly does make the constant drumbeat of whining about ‘cry, cry, Google and the parasitic bloggers are just regurgitating our news!!’ look especially shabby.

    If team dead-tree-and-respectable is serious about attribution and respect and whatnot, they should suck it up and give credit where it is due, even when that isn’t strictly obligatory. If they just want one set of rules for them and one for everybody else, well, that’s as unacceptable as it is shameless…

    1.  How much do you want to bet that this was rumor on a blog long before he “broke the story”. 

      A lot of print journalism now follows leads generated online.  Lets see these assholes start crediting “people in their Pajamas in their parent’s basement”

  3. Siegler is just the whiney-er, younger, west coast version of Gruber. The Grubes has complained about this for months, in a classier, less whiny school girl scree. Why isn’t Siegler citing Gruber for outing the WSJ as a habitual blogger snubber?

  4. Add it to the fast-growing list of things that have gone wrong with today’s news.

    I would have thought giving credit to the person who broke the news, while not necessary, would be the standard of journalistic etiquette. But nowadays, no one seems to even give credit to sources they quote directly!

    Which, besides being rude, is terrible for those of us who are trying to do some research later. I might get twenty apparently good google results for a topic I’m trying to write about, and fifteen of them will be the same text, copypasted, not a single one crediting the original author. 

    No source=no credibility or accountability. The internet is an almost perfect real-time, crowd-updated archive, and we’re using it wrong.

    1. But in reality the ‘hat-tip,’ crediting the story originator and linking back are not journalistic etiquette.. they are Internet norms. MG expects too much. Print articles have never used such conventions – the WSJ is being rude by social web standards.. not industrial media ones. After all – the existence of such principles mean / would have meant newspapers crediting PR ‘tip-offs’ left, right and centre… and can’t say I’ve ever seen that.

      1. You’re probably right…I was going by what I remembered journalism to be, but that’s possibly a tainted impression.

  5. The WSJ’s omission of credit is not nearly as rude as Siegler’s infantile rant.  Watch you mouth and people might take you more seriously – as it is, you just come off as a punk.

  6. d-bagery from the WSj. is anyone surprised that dead tree doesn’t know how to/care to act right online?

  7. I wonder how long it takes before someone decides scooping a story makes it their intellectual property and haul people into court for stealing it.

    At that point we will have conclusive proof the human race’s fate is litigating itself to death.

  8. MG Siegler is the quintessential blogger turned journalist who never bothered to learn about proper journalism. He constantly fails to understand that a) news groups like to confirm facts before reporting them and b) the source that is closest to the story gets the credit. 

  9. Since MG has devoted endless years of energy toward casting himself as the ultimate whiner without big-picture sensibility, I’m gonna say no, it is not enough. For someone who has repeatedly told the world he’s not a journalist, many of his complaints seem to be oriented around his not being treated as one.

  10. Considering how they keep trying to bring back the “Hot News Doctrine”, there are some interesting points to this.
    If you repeat something you heard them report on, your the devil stealing from them.
    If you break a scoop and point them in the right direction, not even a thank you note.

    While it would have been polite to give a “ping back” to the original scooper, thats because we think in web terms.  The dead tree gang feels that the online reporting just children messing around on moms dressing table, and is not to be considered on the same ground.

    Imagine if they gave online people the same respect they keep demanding in return.  Then we could all just get along… well except for the whole idiotic paywall thing…

    1. It doesn’t really stop at being polite, it’s useful. I mean, links are such an amazing tool! We should make as much legitimate use of them as possible. I’m sure most of us still remember reading a book, seeing an annotation and wishing they could check out the source. Or getting frustrated that an article mentions a person or institution, but doesn’t give sufficient information for us to conduct further research. Well, one had to understand the limitations of print publishing, but online, I think it’s unacceptable.

      (I’m kind of ignoring whether whatshisface really deserved this particular pingback, I’m just supporting the culture of giving pingbacks whenever possible.)

  11. Dare I say… who cares?  It’s a totally “nothing” story that’s maybe interesting to someone today, and hardly anyone tomorrow given the glut/flood of tech news that comes out every day.  

  12. First, he posted it on  personal (not pro) blog, so he gets to rant all he wants.

    While I don’t think Siegler should have posted that, I do get where he’s coming from. I could frame it as a matter of professional courtesy, but TBH that’s not why he’s pissed.

    I’m a blogger, and I’m not just in this for the news. I also want the Kudos that comes from everyone crediting me as the original source on a breaking story.

    When someone credits me, it says that I beat them to an important story. I don’t get any traffic boost from it – just a small thrill from having beaten them. It’s an ego thing.

    1. Of course he could have sued instead of blogging, but that’s obviously no good since he might actually get results that way.

  13. I think it’s cute that someone from TechCrunch has a problem with someone else’s manners and journalistic ethics.

  14. The real joke here is that MG Siegler’s post attributes NOTHING about where he got his information. He only says, “we’ve learned” and “we’ve heard.” 

    No properly trained journalist would take this on face value, so OF COURSE the WSJ called Apple and Chomp. This is something some (not all) bloggers would not do and it’s how rumors get started and turned into “fact.” Steve Jobs’ heart attack anyone?

    So, Siegler wants to be attributed, but he won’t let us know how he got his info? 

    His hypocrisy is amazing.

  15. If one major high profile company acquires another company in a forest, and only an obscure tech blogger writes about it does anyone hear it?

  16. If there’s one thing that I miss from the dead-tree era, it’s that the once-a-day deadline gave them time to check with those primary sources and write up something halfway decent, with relatively rare exceptions for “Extra” editions for something really huge, like a president getting assassinated. Apple gobbling up yet another startup to assimilate into its business doesn’t make that cut, and Siegler comes off as a tool for making a stink way out of proportion to its importance. One of the advantages of news-by-blogging is that, if you screw something up, even something fairly big, people forget about it quickly; that door swings both ways.

  17. I have no problem with the WSJ resourcing the information, i.e. checking it with Apple directly. It would be irresponsible of them to print it otherwise. Their source became Apple, and I wouldn’t expect anything else. Crediting MG would have been very nice of them, but at that point it was unsubstantiated internet rumor. “We’ve learned” is not exactly a credible citation on his part.

    The WSJ has a lot of problems, but this is reaching. And the language used in MG’s response betrays his lack of sophistication more than it does for anyone at the WSJ. If you want to scathe and shame journalistic professionals, you might want to dig more deeply into your vocabulary than “Fucking bullshit”,  and “Fuckheads”…

  18. In journalism, being first is everything, to be sure. Just look at all the news outlets that (reluctantly but rightfully) credited TMZ for breaking the story that Michael Jackson had died 2 years ago. Yellow or not, some of what TMZ does can be considered journalism.

    But this case is different. By his own (frequent) pronouncement, MG Seigler does not want to be seen as a journalist and therefore should not be afforded the same courtesy. You can’t actively trash the profession then complain that it won’t acknowledge you, you can’t have it both ways.

  19. This has been percolating for a few days, and it’s less about this particular post than the state of media today, so apologies for the tl;dr.

    I’m a journalist, and I’ve been on the internet as long as Boingboing. It’s time for this dead-tree-media vs. online-media thing to end. There is only journalism and non-journalism. The rest is just a question of delivery medium.

    On the newspaper side, anyone who still feels that all bloggers sit around in their parents’ basements and comment on what newspapers do has either retired or is permanently out looking for a fresh supply of carbon paper for their manual typewriter. The rest have long realized that solid reporting can be done on the internet. It’s a dead issue.

    The kind of theft that newspapers complain about comes from re-posting the entire story, or the bulk of it, so the reader doesn’t have to click through to see the original. As a writer, that’s fine with me, I just want people to read the thing, but as someone who makes a living from writing, I’d like the publication that pays me to get their ad dollars, or whatever it is they do, so that I can get paid to go out and write something else. If I complain about that to the re-posters, as Rob points out above, I get accused of whining or “not understanding how the internet works.”

    On the blog side, every time a post contains the words “You won’t see this in the mainstream media!!!1!” and then links to another blog, which in turn links to the New York Times, there should be some kind of swear jar type penalty. Newspapers, by virtue of being large-ish, money-having organizations, still provide the majority of the news. Not the fun, “look at this steam punk gas mask” type of news, but the complicated, boring, “I had to call a bunch of sources and fight a freedom of information lawsuit to find out about sewer regulations” type of news. Do newspapers have their problems? Sure. Do they get things spectacularly wrong at times? Absolutely. But if you’re going to lump them all together, you have to acknowledge that the same is true of online news sources.

    I’m a freelancer, a nobody in the media ecology, but I work for print and online outlets, and I can tell you that there’s really no difference in the process (well, except for the sinister cabal of industrialists that has to approve my stories for print, but I can’t talk about that). By attacking the traditional media, as some of the comments above have, you’re contributing in some small way to its demise, and I think it’s short-sighted to believe that
    nothing would be lost.

    In this particular case, idea theft happens all the time, and always has. Big news organizations get ideas from smaller ones. Welcome to the media food chain. Unless there’s something in the story that can’t be independently verified (like a quote from a dead person), or the story took some kind of extraordinary effort, like getting shot at, the original doesn’t get credited. It’s normal to be frustrated by it, but that gets handled behind-the-scenes, if at all, with a snarky email. Then you get over it and go back to the sewer board

    For example, Boingboing recently linked to an online article that had a lot of the same information I wrote about several years ago in a print newspaper. Did I stew quietly for a couple minutes about not getting mentioned? I hate to admit it, but I did. I am very petty. Was it an example of one of those lazy bloggers stealing from the dead tree media? Not remotely. It didn’t even rise to snarky email level. It was just a good journalist who verified her own information in a well-written piece. Calling it anything else would be whining.

    Okay, sorry. Back to the sewer board.

          1. Disqus has an annoying habit of inserting artificial line breaks. But you figured that out already.

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