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Chicago Tribune Stops the Journatic Presses 62

Posted by samzenpus
from the news-on-the-cheap dept.
theodp writes "In April, the Chicago Tribune touted its investment in and use of news outsourcer Journatic. 'We're excited to partner with Journatic, both as an investor and as a customer,' said Dan Kazan, the Trib's Sr. VP of Investments. 'Journatic will expand Tribune's ability to deliver relevant hyperlocal content to our readers, and we believe that many other publishers and advertisers will benefit from its services as well.' That was then. In a Friday-the-13th letter to readers, the Tribune announced a plagiarized and fabricated story has prompted the paper to suspend its relationship with Journatic. The move comes two weeks after Journatic's standards and practices were called into question by This American Life, which noted several Journatic-produced stories had appeared this year on TribLocal online with false bylines. Explaining why he went public about his experience at Journatic, reporter Ryan Smith said he felt 'people should know how their local newspapers are being hollowed out.'"
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Chicago Tribune Stops the Journatic Presses

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  • by crazyjj (2598719) * on Monday July 16, 2012 @10:00AM (#40662909)

    Journatic: Go with us and you can fire all those expensive reporters on the ground and we'll replace them with cheap freelancers for next-to-nothing! And you won't take any hit in quality, honest. Hey...would we lie to you, pal?

    Chicago Tribune: Yay, sounds great! We like money. And words are hard, 'specially the long ones.

    Journatic: While we're at it, just between us, we also have some prime Florida real estate we can let you have for a steal...

    Chicago Tribune: Yay, more money!!!

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Journatic: Go with us and you can fire all those expensive reporters on the ground and we'll replace them with cheap freelancers for next-to-nothing! And you won't take any hit in quality, honest. Hey...would we lie to you, pal?

      Chicago Tribune: Yay, sounds great! We like money. And words are hard, 'specially the long ones.

      Journatic: While we're at it, just between us, we also have some prime Florida real estate we can let you have for a steal...

      Chicago Tribune: Yay, more money!!!

      What "hit in quality"?

      When the standards are Jayson Blair, Janet Cooke, and Dan Rather, the only thing bad about plagiarism and fabrication is getting caught.

    • Print is dead [youtube.com].
    • The story pretty explains the entire news media..."" plagiarized and fabricated stories "" This is the problem with the newspapers and TV press is, whatever it takes to make a buck or gain a rating, and they could careless about who or what they destroy in the process. It is both the left and right that are causing this.. Nobody wants to report truth, only sensationalism..
  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Monday July 16, 2012 @10:06AM (#40662957) Journal
    For some reason there was no link to the original source that kinda got the scoop. So here's the link to 'Switcheroo' [thisamericanlife.org] which is This American Life's episode that covered this. It's free to stream, you can click the third link to Act II [thisamericanlife.org] just to hear the coverage of this thing. I listened to it on the radio when it aired and sent it around as I found it really interesting (also a follow up here [poynter.org]). There's a funny part where Ryan Smith is revealing everything about Journatic and he makes a comment about how it's not what journalism is supposed to be and Sarah Koenig says, "You are so fired. You realize that, right?" And then there's this odd pause and he says "Yeah, I am I guess. I'm okay with that." Another great part of that clip is when the owner of Journatic (CEO Brian Timpone) comes on and openly talks about it and defends his company (quite unsuccessfully, in my opinion). But hats off to him, he is a huge fan of TAL and so instead of giving one of those canned "could not be reached for comment" they got a real person arguing for his business venture. He actually argues that this saves newspapers money and therefore allows them report on the important stuff while outsourcing the inane stuff to Filipino freelancers who get absolutely no credit (and ridiculously low wages) for their (often correspondingly subpar) work.
    • by PPalmgren (1009823) on Monday July 16, 2012 @10:29AM (#40663179)

      He actually argues that this saves newspapers money and therefore allows them report on the important stuff while outsourcing the inane stuff to Filipino freelancers who get absolutely no credit (and ridiculously low wages) for their (often correspondingly subpar) work.

      You'd be surprised, behind a lot of what appear to be scummy businesses are people who really believe they're doing the world a great service. From seminar leaders to pyramid schemes to cubicle monkeys, a significant percentage of people really believe in what they do for a living.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        It's called acting. Trust me, I've been in sales. You can't sell others if you don't sell yourself first.

      • You'd be surprised, behind a lot of what appear to be scummy businesses are people who really believe they're doing the world a great service. From seminar leaders to pyramid schemes to cubicle monkeys, a significant percentage of people really believe in what they do for a living.

        and I believe the clinical term for that is a Sociopath

      • by Anonymous Coward

        "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!" -- Upton Sinclair

  • Does that mean "what's happening in this group of 5 houses in this cul-de-sac"?

    Seems either pointless, boring, or hyper-gossipy.

    • Re:Hyperlocal (Score:5, Interesting)

      by vlm (69642) on Monday July 16, 2012 @10:59AM (#40663531)

      Seems either pointless, boring, or hyper-gossipy.

      Hows that different from non-Hyperlocal newspapers?

      Hyperlocal spam might be more interesting than non-hyperlocal spam. There's a Cabella's around 50 miles away, and I get spam for it, that spam is useless to me. Hyperlocal spam would be my neighborhood Gander Mountain, there's at least theoretically a chance I'd find that useful.

      I'm not sure what the point is of a newspaper in 2012. My young son asked me about newspapers, and I explained it as "A tiny little part of the internet, printed out yesterday, and delivered to your house". He's completely uninterested. Everyone in my generation knows we're supposed to feel newspapers are important, maybe a sense of guilt at not subscribing. Rather like the donation campaigns for the Ballet at work, no one wants to go but we've all been socialized to believe its important. However, newspapers are so far off the modern cultural radar, that my kids don't even get the point. They're simply doomed. You know you're in big trouble when the conversation switches from "you're no longer relevant" to "what are you?"

      • Re:Hyperlocal (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 16, 2012 @11:35AM (#40663831)

        But this isn't about the newspapers as a medium. It's about the content they publish.
        Even if traditional newspapers migrate to the Internet they still have to offer a modicum of quality content to remain relevant. Let's not confuse the content issue with the medium of delivery issue, even if both are relevant.

        Even in the Internet era you still need journalists to corelate and verify facts, to uncover hidden issues, to give stories the personal touch, and last but not least, to write with professional and even artistic command of the language. Sure, you can try to use machine-generated or outsourced content, but this story has shown exactly how insipid that kind of content is. This very story would have never been created by Journatic, it took a real journalist to write it.

        It's cool that we're switching to a world where information doesn't flow only one way like it was with old TV, radio and newspapers... but it doesn't mean that we don't need oversight, validation and professionalism anymore.

      • "Newspapers: A tiny little part of the internet, printed out yesterday, and delivered to your house"

        Thank you for supplying my new sig.

        • by AdamWill (604569)

          Newspapers - also usually quite good at attribution...

          • by vlm (69642)

            Newspapers - also usually quite good at attribution...

            LOL OK "TheTerseOne" you have formal written permission to use my quote.

      • by ak3ldama (554026)

        I disagree. Newspapers are extremely important. Maybe not on "paper" but the news and information they can provide is amazingly important. This weekend I bought the local newspaper, on accident. It was in the news stand box of the bigger city's newspaper box. It had an excellent article describing the hardships of the local townships as they deal with increased costs of maintaining their roads, while not getting enough taxation dollars from the wind electric generators. The county, state, and schools get mo

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by VIPERsssss (907375)
        Newspapers are for people who can't get wifi in their toilet.
      • by bcrowell (177657)

        I'm not sure what the point is of a newspaper in 2012.

        The point is the same as it was 50 years ago. The point is to get in-depth news and opinion.

        My young son asked me about newspapers, and I explained it as "A tiny little part of the internet, printed out yesterday, and delivered to your house".

        You can read newspapers online, so your whining about the fact that it's up to (gasp!) 24 hours out of date is irrelevant. The complaint that it's "a tiny little part of the internet" is even sillier. What do you ac

        • by Urza9814 (883915)

          What you're really saying is that you belong to the majority that gets their news from sources that are not as good as newspapers. Sources like crappy local TV news, Fox News, and that story about the cute bunnies that your sister emailed you the link to.

          While I know you don't directly say this, the implication here seems to be that newspapers are in general better than the news you'd be getting on TV or the Internet. Which is, quite frankly, absurd. I don't read newspapers because I find that, at best, they're around 90% garbage pop culture and sports. And I'm talking about papers like the New York Times. Was in a hotel recently for a couple weeks and got a free USA Today every morning -- there was maybe one article in the entire paper that was actually wo

      • by Compaqt (1758360)

        One very important function of a newspaper for a civilization is to record what happened.

        Again: "record" it.

        Not: delete some aspect of the past when you find it inconvenient.

        Example: Vanity Fair did an interview with Asma Bashar, wife of the Syrian president for life, calling her a rose in the desert. Now that the US and UK want Bashar out, the article is nowhere to be found.

        It's hard to delete an article when it's printed on a newspaper and held in multiple (or even one) libraries.

        Whether you're on the con

    • by nahdude812 (88157) *

      Does that mean "what's happening in this group of 5 houses in this cul-de-sac"?

      No, it's hyper-local in the journalistic sense, covering news that individuals will find relevant, but which historically the print media which covered that area would have found too localized to bother spending the money for someone to cover it.

      The example in the This American Life episode which originally talked about these guys is a town hall meeting where new articles were up for debate. IIRC, the paper which covers that area is the Chicago Tribune, who normally doesn't have the resources to cover a sm

      • Re:Hyperlocal (Score:5, Informative)

        by ddtstudio (61065) on Monday July 16, 2012 @02:09PM (#40665533)

        Journalist here.

        What you're missing is the strong definition of "cover". In that very example, IIRC, the Journatic stringer just rewrote an agenda for the meeting, published before the meeting. The report that got published did not reflect what actually happened at the meeting, had no context of whether citizens questioned, applauded, or rioted. The Journatic stringer did not contact anyone to get a second source.

        Think if this model were replicated on a larger scale. "Official government press releases said that the Congress is functioning smoothly and all citizens are happy" or "Microsoft press releases stated that Office 2018 is a must-buy and everyone loves Windows."

        • by s.petry (762400)

          Think if this model were replicated on a larger scale. "Official government press releases said that the Congress is functioning smoothly and all citizens are happy" or "Microsoft press releases stated that Office 2018 is a must-buy and everyone loves Windows."

          Seriously you think this has not already been happening for years? (Hard to tell if you are being sarcastic or not.) It's of course not Universal, but it is very wide spread. This is quite honestly why distrust corporate owned media. When people I know that watch the "News" every single day have no idea what Fast and Furious is about, or Kony 2012, or what OWS is about, it's flooring. These are all major issues and the majority that watch corporate owned media have little to no information to work with.

        • by nahdude812 (88157) *

          Yeah, I don't intend to suggest that Jouranatic's treatment of "hyperlocal" stories is the best treatment. Just suggesting to GP that "hyperlocal" doesn't mean, "Did you see the Jones family put up new siding?" Rather I mean that there are events happening which are relevant to a subset of individuals, which would not be relevant to the population typically covered by a newspaper.

          Journatic's approach is flawed, but is probably the result of trying to provide this kind of reporting without costing as much a

  • by rwade (131726) on Monday July 16, 2012 @10:11AM (#40663007)

    I highly recommend review of the This American Life Episode [thisamericanlife.org] referenced in TFA.

    Although broadcast only a few weeks ago, I'm not sure when TAL recorded the interview. That said, the enthusiasm of the company's CEO was striking given the strong line of questioning posed by the This American Life Interviewer. I would imagine the interview was fairly recent.

    Although conceding that the stories sometimes lacked full detail on the things going on on the community being covered, with base material consisting often of only a quick phone interview to get a quote and a press release to provide the story -- Journastic CEO Brian Timpone did clalim a degree of passion for enabling some form of coverage for stories that may simply go unreported on.

    This kind of enthusiasm for idealistic coverage of Norman Rockwell's Small Town America really files in the face of the general approach of the company to the job at hand -- which included a policy to use falsified (read: made-up) by-lines. That is to say, the off-shore reporters writing the stories for Journastic and then syndicated to newspapers like the Chicago Tribune had a field in the story submission setting for a name to associated with the story. Amazing.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      For what it's worth, the Tribune used Journatic ONLY for TribLocal. The actual content of the TribLocal, since I live in a town covered by one, is pretty useless. Since you listened to the TAL episode, you got a glimpse of some of what they do which is all true. Regular features include the top 10 Redbox rentals from a collection of stores (3 or 4 for me) in the area covered by that TribLocal, recent home sales and prices of homes in the area, generic sports listings and some actual articles about sports te

  • by djl4570 (801529) on Monday July 16, 2012 @10:15AM (#40663049) Journal
    News has been outsourced for years. Read a newspaper and see for yourselves how many stories are AP, Reuters, AFP or syndicated from the NYT, WA Post or LAT. This trend was evident in the early nineties to anyone paying attention to the papers they read. It was not unusual for the front section of the SF dailies to be mostly wire service content and advertising. The net didn't kill the newspaper industry, they were busy digging their own grave before the net became popular. The net just helped them fall into the hole they dug.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      News has been outsourced for years. Read a newspaper and see for yourselves how many stories are AP, Reuters, AFP or syndicated from the NYT, WA Post or LAT. This trend was evident in the early nineties to anyone paying attention to the papers they read. It was not unusual for the front section of the SF dailies to be mostly wire service content and advertising. The net didn't kill the newspaper industry, they were busy digging their own grave before the net became popular. The net just helped them fall into the hole they dug.

      There's a huge difference between running a story written that gives full byline credit to a real journalist who happens to work for the Associated Press and having a story credited to "James Albertson, Chicago Tribune" when it was actually written by Jayjay Alvarez in the Philippines, who has never even been to Chicago.

      • by vlm (69642)

        There's a huge difference between running a story written that gives full byline credit to a real journalist who happens to work for the Associated Press and having a story credited to "James Albertson, Chicago Tribune" when it was actually written by Jayjay Alvarez in the Philippines, who has never even been to Chicago.

        Like what? If its "huge", this should be an easy difference to point out, to elaborate upon, to provide examples...

        One big problem you get is generational effects of the American educational system. So a guy who scored in the top 5% of international standardized tests in a foreign land can probably B.S. his way into a better article than a local who might have grown up where the story happened (as if that'll matter) but he probably scored in the bottom 10% so he's going to completely screw it up.

        • by ddtstudio (61065)

          The difference is accountability. I should think this is obvious.

          Journalism -- real journalism -- relies existentially on correction, whether self- or outside. The whole thing depends on being able to track who was responsible for reporting what and track records. Your name, your byline, is your career in journalism not just because of narcissism (though that happens) but because you have to put your name on each story and, if you screw up, each correction. If you can't trace where bad info came or _regular

          • by s.petry (762400)

            Of course! There is no such thing as nefarious or badly intentioned software, just like there is no such thing as bad intentioned or nefarious Journalism right?

            The above is of course sarcasm. What I have seen so far have been the innocent comments and concerns, but you hint at a bigger problem. What about the lies, or plain old cover ups that are happening because there are no local journalists to actually do.. you know.. Journalism?

            The article also talks about something which is a huge red flag. "Only

          • by vlm (69642)

            Since you're on /. and have a low ID, I'll guess you're

            At least you didn't say "old"

            Do you install unsigned software or buy from developers you've never heard of, have no reputation, and no contact info?

            Science/engineering is different from fine arts, but I'm not sure it matters in this case. If you insist a newspaper journalist is like a scientist/engineer, then I'd respond that I read technical journal articles all the time, and my main criteria for selection is the synopsis, for all I know or care the contact info is falsified. If you insist a newspaper journalist is a fine artist, then I'd respond that I often listen to unknown musicians and pick up unknown paperback book

            • by ddtstudio (61065)

              Ha! No, I'm old. And Spartacus.

              No, I'm not insisting a journalist is like a scientist/engineer, nor am I insisting a journalist is like a fine artist. Why does a journalist have to be like either?

              The parallel I was attempting (poorly, it seems) to draw is one of accountability. Which was the answer to your question. It's not tied to writing or expression, but in trust and confidence (perhaps the sociological technical senses of these terms are best here). You need to have a way to track back to the person w

      • by k(wi)r(kipedia) (2648849) on Monday July 16, 2012 @11:17AM (#40663673)

        Well if you have worked in a newspaper, you'll realize that except for big name reporters, a byline is simply the credit given to the person who supplied data for a news report. This might consist simply of the basic who, why, what, how, where. The person who'd combine all this into something that isn't a mere tabulation of data would be the copy editor, who frequently goes uncredited (although I've seen news reports with a tagline like "With reporting by So-an-So).

        The most "honest" bylines probably belong to a columnist or a lifestyle (useless news) section writer. Lifestyle writers have all the time to write their critical analyses of the latest Shakespeare play or why Facebook is a great way for moms to keep in touch. But for the front page, where time is of the essence, what the reporter submits is at best a rough draft.

    • by mk1004 (2488060)
      AP and Reuters have been around for decades and were once considered excellent sources. They've been downsizing for at least the last decade and provide nowhere near the quality they use to.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Not the same thing at all. There's a big difference between national news and local news. You had the wire services covering DC and global news, and the local news folks covered local news, and the local papers shared stories all the time.

      You can't expect a local newspaper to have people in DC, New York, London, Egypt, Iraq, etc.

      It was a good system. Not perfect. The article, if you should decide to read it, has to do with fake news being generated by people with no journalism training.

    • What's even more amazing than the amount of corporate malfeasance we live with day to day are the legions of people that line up to defend that corporate malfeasance.

    • News has been outsourced for years. Read a newspaper and see for yourselves how many stories are AP, Reuters, AFP or syndicated from the NYT, WA Post or LAT. This trend was evident in the early nineties to anyone paying attention to the papers they read.

      If you're calling it a 'trend' and saying it was "evident in the early nineties" - then, frankly, you're the one not paying attention. "Outsourcing" articles has been standard practice since at least the 1930's. (Nor is it really outsourcing in any useful

      • We did receive News from abroad if that is what you are calling "Outsourcing", but it was not anything like what is happening now. I'm not sure how you can even draw a parallel. Let me give you a brief yet well known example.

        Carl Marx was a writer, and wrote stories for various news papers in the US. Those were printed as Opinion Pieces, not News. When it came to Newspapers with interest, and later broadcasting media, they sent reporters that were trained in and practiced Journalism across the globe to

        • We did receive News from abroad if that is what you are calling "Outsourcing", but it was not anything like what is happening now. I'm not sure how you can even draw a parallel. Let me give you a brief yet well known example.

          When you get an example, get back to me, because the one you provided was laughably clueless. (Here's a free hint for you: Newspaper editors aren't entirely stupid, and they do know who they hire to write opinion pieces and who they hire to write news.)

          When it came to Newspape

          • by s.petry (762400)

            When you get an example, get back to me, because the one you provided was laughably clueless. (Here's a free hint for you: Newspaper editors aren't entirely stupid, and they do know who they hire to write opinion pieces and who they hire to write news.)

            I gave one, it worked very well. You stated that "Outsourcing" has been happening for a long time in Journalism. Clearly you back what I stated, that that would only be true if you re-defined outsourcing. Correspondents were not anonymous people. Of course they were not local, but they sure as hell were not anonymous and sold as cheap commodity like TFA is discussing. The same would be true for Editors, and Journalists. There were names, and in many cases people did not even use Pen names. Of course

  • From the article:

    "offering to pay $50 in âoehush moneyâ to anyone who reported getting a request"

    A whole $50? What is that like.... a couple of drinks at Starbucks?

    • Another benefit of offshoring. Not only are the wages lower, so are the bribes!

    • by Nyder (754090)

      ...

      A whole $50? What is that like.... a couple of drinks at Starbucks?

      Only if you don't leave a tip.

  • Just another way to say "it just doesn't matter where you are on the Internet".

    And apparently it doesn't much matter the quality of your work either, so long as you're doing something.

    Feh.

  • But the in-depth investigative work done for This American Life has been the most compelling, top-notch journalism I've ever seen or heard. They've also done great work covering different aspects of the recent financial crises (I suppose one could argue it's just been one drawn-out, multifaceted crisis rather than several).

    I'd like more of that and less David Sedaris, please.

    • by g1zmo (315166)

      Planet Money [npr.org] is (IMO) just as good as TAL, though their segments tend to be shorter and, obviously, they focus on financial and economic stories.

      While we're on it, Radio Lab [radiolab.org] is as equally well-presented as the other two, but it focuses on more of the humanities, science, and social sciences rather than current events or other topical issues.

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