I rarely know which of the articles I write will resonate with audiences. In most cases I write about what I see on walks around my home suburb simply to document it as social history. It may interest a few fellow locals who, like me, watch the opening and closing of shops and businesses over time with benign interest. Occasionally the story has wider relevance, like the hidden pizza restaurant ambush marketing fiasco back in 2010.
I published an article about the Mana video games themed bar on Brunswick St closing at 12.06am on 5 August 2013. It quickly got posted to Reddit, where a big discussion took place, and Facebook. My post got a lot of traffic from those sites and other gamer forums and blogs that day, such as Player Attack and Stevivor, which both demonstrated professional journalistic ethics in acknowledging Fitzroyalty as the source of the story.
Then the ethics ended. Kotaku and Gizmodo ran the story the same day without acknowledging the source, though they both included a link to the real estate listing for the property, which was first associated with the story in Reddit. That suggests they got the link from Reddit, had read the Reddit post, and thus saw the link to Fitzroyalty but chose not to acknowledge it.
They should have also acknowledged the Reddit post as it contributed to the story by combining my post with the real estate listing. It Wire linked to Reddit in its version but not to Fitzroyalty. Again, by being aware of the Reddit post, it would have been aware that the story originated with Fitzroyalty.
At 1.59pm that day the bar acknowledged that they were planning to close on Facebook and Twitter. None of these articles or posts predate mine, and I am very confident that Fitzroyalty broke the story. I was surprised by the level of interest in the story given that my observations of patronage at the bar had led me to suspect that it was not popular enough to survive. Gamer culture may be strong in Melbourne but that has apparently not resulted in strong support for the bar.
A whole week later, Fairfax’s Weekly Review ran the story, using the exact Fitzroyalty headline, without acknowledging the source of the story. Their article also contains a list of Brunswick St businesses that have closed since 2010. The journalist claims to have been collecting that information for some time from various sources. I wonder if some of that detail, particularly about more obscure closed businesses, was obtained from a hyperlocal site that documents such things?
A screenshot of the article headline one the Weekly Review website on 12 August 2013
The journalist who wrote the article claimed that she was informed about the story by her deputy editor. But she had contacted me by email in 2011 and wanted to meet with me, which indicates that she has been aware of Fitzroyalty since then.
I declined the offer to meet her in 2011. I don’t want to be groomed as a source of free stories. Her approach was similar to that of previous journalists who have contacted me. One used information and a photo I provided without attribution in direct opposition to a written contract to provide attribution and told a deliberate lie about me. I made a complaint to the Australian Press Council that was upheld and the local paper that did this was forced to make a public apology.
The prevailing approach of commercial media is to mislead audiences by suggesting that it is the source of the story, when it often isn’t. Fairfax has history as a repeat social media plagiarist. Their journalists routinely ignore their own code of conduct, which requires them to acknowledge their sources, and they never admit to failing their own professional standards.
I believe there are too many coincidences here for this to be a coincidence.