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Pension Plan Puppets vs Toronto Sun: The Latest Battlefield in Old vs New?

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By now, hopefully most of you have read about the Toronto Sun's borrowing fair use bald-faced rip off of a Pension Plan Puppets translation of an article written, in Czech, about Tomas Kaberle. The article was then cited by other media outlets such as TSN and others.

Go over to PPP for the full story and background. What we have here at Hockey Wilderness is a full-throated defense of the work done by PPP, and a justification for why what the Sun did was wrong. My view point, after the jump.

Hopefully all of you can find a definition of plagiarism, and can take the time to read up on the issue at hand. I am not going to go into the specifics, so if you fall behind, take a second and catch back up, OK? OK.

What I want to focus on is why, in the name of everything good, would anyone care? This is a real question being thrown around. Why would PPP care that the Sun did this? Why would other bloggers care? Why, oh dear Bryan, would you care? The answers go to the depth and breadth of the chasm between traditional media (print, TV, radio) and the so called "new" media (webites, podcasts,etc). 

First off, why does PPP care? I am not them, but I can put myself in their shoes. They care because someone did them a huge favor, translating an entire article (as JS once did for us) for the readers of PPP. The article is of no use to 99.9999% of Leafs nation if it is not translated. The people who read the original Czech article are the only people who would know the story. Leafs fans, who have a huge buy in, would never get the information.

That work was then stolen by a major newspaper, who then claimed the translation as their own. Any of you ever had someone else take credit for something you did? How did it feel? Now imagine if someone not only stole your work, but also that of someone who was kind enough to do that work for you, as a favor to you. Would you not be upset? If not, then you can stop reading now, because you and I do not see the world in the same way, and we will only end up arguing until the cows come home.

There are things in this world that can be done the right way or the wrong way. The Sun did it the wrong way, and now they are expending considerable effort to cover their asses.

Next question - why do other bloggers care? This answer is a little more complicated. As we have learned in the past, blogs exist for different reasons. Some exist simply to throw out as many expletives as they possibly can while maintaining a euphoric high about how special that makes them. Some blogs wish to convey a more professional feel, and some do their best to fall somewhere in the middle.

The biggest issue at hand is the chasm between the "new" media world of blogs and podcasts, and the traditional media of print, TV, and radio. There are bridge builders in this world, such as Russo and Wysh. They are the way the world should work. Doing all types of media, reaching out across the lines and making it clear that the war is one that does not need to be fought.

I cannot think of a member of the new media camp that feels that traditional media has no place in this world. Certainly newspapers are struggling, but no one thinks that reporters such as Russo should go away. The medium is the issue, not the people, and certainly not their abilities. The days of newsprint certainly seem to be numbered, and some of us certainly hope that does not mean the demise of the StarTribune.

To be sure, there are more bridge builders than warriors. However, all it takes is a spark.

The battle is being fought. Bloggers are denied access because they are "just a website." Bloggers are treated as nearly sub-human by many major sports franchises, and by the traditional media. Bloggers are told that they have no ethics, have no accountability, and have no place in the press box.

However, when a major newspaper such as the Sun takes work from a blog, it renders the argument of ethics invalid. Do we think for a second that the Sun and Mr. Fuller are not going to be issued credentials for this coming season? It is not even a question. He, and they, will be there. They are a newspaper so, by definition, they are without fault. Right? Wrong, but the mistakes made by traditional media outlets tend to be overlooked and forgiven very quickly, while mistakes made by a blogger result in bans not only for themselves, but all online media.

That is why this is important to other bloggers. It is part of the battle for credibility. Traditional media has painted blogs as unethical and a source of useless banter. Blogs have painted traditional media as backwards and stubborn, unwilling to accept change. Both sides are right, and both sides are wrong.

On this singular issue, the Sun is wrong, and the outcry from bloggers and readers alike should certainly be enough to convince them of that. As I was once reminded, it is not me that gets to decide if what I write is right or wrong, it is the readers. My job is to serve the readers, and if I steal to do that, I should expect to be called out for it. Instead, the Sun trots out editors, so called lawyers, and their own definitions of plagiarism to defend the indefensible.

Unethical behavior by one member of the traditional media. The only ones willing to call them out? Members of the new media. It is sad, but it is the reality of the world as we know it. If PPP had flat out stolen quotes from the Sun, they would be immediately chastised and labeled as thieves.

So, the basic argument comes down to this. Bloggers want equality, and part of equality means that the rules have to be the same for everyone.

Why do you care, Bryan? I care for the same reason that other journalists care when a reporter is jailed for refusing to disclose a source. I care for the same reason that when a union strikes, other unions refuse to cross the picket line. Simply put, I care because it matters.

Some may point and laugh at that belief system. For those, I kindly invite you to comment below. I look forward to the debate.

When bloggers stand up and defend their rights, they are told they are whining or being cry babies. After all, traditional media would never complain about being shut out or not given access, right? Wrong. It happens all the time. Ever heard or read the line "[Media Outlet] was denied a request for comment" or "Calls to the subject of the story were not returned." That is the traditional media way of saying "We weren't given access, so we are going to make you look like the jerk."

When multiple bloggers react to one blog being wronged, it is time for someone to take notice. That's why I care. Because my friends, my colleagues, my co-workers have been wronged. The writers at PPP are not robots, nor is the reader who did the translation. These are real people, with rights. Just because the bulk of them are uncompensated does not make their work less valuable.

It comes down to Wysh's key point. The Sun was scooped by a competitor. If it had been the Toronto Star, the source would have been cited. But this was just a blog. Note the "just" in that sentence. That is full definition of the rift between new and old. "Just." By using that word, blogs are told to sit down, shut up, and know your role. When it becomes OK for the Sun to (as they have admitted) read a blog and use the quotes directly from the post they read, and then not cite where they got those quotes, it is wrong.

Lawyers and pundits can argue about the definition of plagiarism. I tend to err on the side of caution and site everything that is not my won original work. Call me old-fashioned. I believe it is plagiarism, as do many, many others. What I do know, without the slightest bit of debate, is that what the Sun did was wrong.

But no one should care, because it was in newsprint.