Finding a way to save local news, but is it by plagiarizing?

GoLocalProv.com, a local website based in Providence, R.I., claims to have found a way to save local news, and indeed, the numbers do seem to tell a promising tale. According to an article written by Josh Fenton, the site’s founder, in Business Insider, the site, which launched in May 2010, has increased its traffic more than 100 percent in the last four months. And according to the article, the site attracted 410,000 “absolute unique visitors” in its first year, which, in a state with a population that hovers slightly above 1 million, is particularly impressive considering the report released by the FCC on June 9 citing a decline in the creation of online local news.

Fenton credits the site’s original reporting and “high-quality” videos as the reasons behind GoLocal’s success.

“For GoLocal the focus has been on content ─ as it is truly king. By breaking the biggest investigative pieces, covering core elements of the community, and integrating these stories into social media, GoLocalProv has been able to set the news cycle ahead of other news organizations over and over again,” Fenton wrote. “Unlike other new models for media, GoLocal doesn’t use third-party content aggregators or other news organizations like Associated Press to scrape stories.”

But are people really reading original content when they visit GoLocal?

In February, GoLocal published an article, with the byline GoLocalProv Features Team, about a new master’s degree program at Brown University. The story begins “Brown University has partnered with the University of Edinburgh and the Chinese University of Hong Kong to establish a new opportunity for students interested in international study. The ‘Brown Plus One’ international program, which begins this year, allows Brown students to spend one or two semesters at a partnering university during their junior year.” Earlier that day, Brown had posted a press release, which began, “Brown University has partnered with the University of Edinburgh and the Chinese University of Hong Kong to establish a new opportunity for students interested in international study. The ‘Brown Plus One’ international program, which begins this year, allows Brown students to spend one or two semesters at a partnering university during their junior year.”

GoLocal’s story goes on to include a quote from the university’s dean of the college, without citing the release, which is identical to the one that appeared in the press release. In fact, GoLocal’s story is the press release almost word-for-word ─ yet there is no mention at all that any of the information came from the release.

Fenton asserts GoLocal’s success is a testament to the over 8,500 “original stories” on the site, but if copying and pasting a press release is “original” reporting and the key to GoLocal’s success, then it’s unclear how his site could ─ and should ─ be a model for saving local news.

(Thanks to Talia Kagan)

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One response to “Finding a way to save local news, but is it by plagiarizing?

  1. Keep em honest ledeObserver is not adverse to tracking down plagiarism. Keep it up!

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