When the local newspaper failed to show up for the nursery school’s grand opening last weekend — to which it had been specifically invited — I thought, “Oh, who cares, I’ll just write the article myself and submit it to the paper.” So I did, and it was printed in this week’s edition of the Shoreline Beacon. Imagine my great surprise, however, when I discovered that I hadn’t been credited as the author. It was simply left blank, as if the article had been written by the regular newspaper staff. That was not okay with me, even if the article had taken me less than ten minutes to write. It’s still my work and I deserve full credit for it, as anyone would.
The next morning I headed straight to the office to ask why my name had been left off the article. The woman I spoke to seemed surprised at my question and told that she thought it’s standard procedure to leave the names off submissions sent to the paper. When I questioned her further, she said she’d get an explanation from her editor. I told her a correction is what I want, which she reluctantly agreed to put in next week’s paper and to change in the online edition — not that it does much for the current article in print, but at least it appeases slightly my injured sense of justice.
Upon returning home, there was an email from her in my inbox: “I was informed that our standard is to leave credit off submissions to differentiate what is produced by newspaper staff and what isn’t. In cases where credit is requested in advance we are happy to oblige.”
If credit is requested in advance, they will oblige?! I was furious. In what universe do these people live in, where it’s considered appropriate to use anyone’s work without credit? Giving credit is a dead-easy, two-word job that not only makes a publication professional and look classier, it’s also legally mandatory. Once I’d calmed down somewhat, I wrote back (among other things):
“Throughout my entire education, the one thing that’s been drilled into me repeatedly is to cite my sources, no matter how obscure, and if I can’t, then it’s essentially useless and I can’t use it. Why these universal standards should be any different for a small-town newspaper, I don’t understand. I highly recommend that you change this policy, as it would never occur to anyone to have to request credit ahead of time for something they’ve written.”
I’m still seething for this rather distasteful experience. I’ve already had a few run-ins with this newspaper that left me very unimpressed, so perhaps I’m overreacting, but when it comes to issues of legality and rights and plagiarism — there, I went and said the P word — I get defensive pretty darn fast. The newspaper can expect a letter to the Editor from me very soon, because they haven’t heard the last of this. All I ask is that, for every guest submission yet to come, the Shoreline Beacon has the decency to say who wrote it.