Little did I understand when on Tuesday night I posted my HS WTF… About 18 thousand people have read the original post – I can only imagine how many eyeballs the derivatives have accumulated. It has been quoted on the opening screen of Uusi Suomi, M&M, etc. Facebook has been saturated with links and commentary – never ever has anything I’ve said or written been tweeted or referenced as much. And I just noticed, it ranked as number 16 in the world as the most read blog article in WP.
When something gets out of hand – “lähtee lapasesta” in Finnish – it is often a good idea to see it as a timeline – just to understand it. Let me walk you thru it – I promise, it gets interesting:
- Saturday 2.10 HS print publishes two images. Scanned from the physical print of OPTIO, careful photoshop-work to remove all the credits and the logo.
- Monday 4.6 HS Digilehti runs the same story. Same images used. No credits.
- Monday in the evening I get informed of what has happened, when I receive an email from OPTIO. They see it as a copyright infringement – but they will not pursue the issue further – and suggest that I should write HS a bill on the use of my images.
- I sit down and think for a while – and write a blog post and publish it at 11 pm. It gets immediately picked up and forwarded by friends and colleagues in Facebook and Twitter.
- Tuesday morning 7.30 leaving for work I notice it’s been read by c. 500 people.
- Tuesday at 11 am. comments start rolling in and I notice that the statistics have jumped c. 4000 readers. Busy working the whole day (three assignments) so I don’t really pay attention to what is going on.
- At 12:45 Markkinointi ja Mainonta runs an article on their website describing the event. They have seeked commentary from mr. Erkki Kylmänen, acting head of cult. dept. of HS. Later at night Markku Niskanen, head of pict. dept, comments this article.
- Blog stats hit 10 000
- At 13:20 Uusi Suomi calls and asks for commentary. They also call Mikael Pentikäinen, editor in chief of HS.
- At 13:31 Markku sends me an email, officially apologizing for this mistake.
- At 14:22 Uusi Suomi runs their article on their site, including my commentary. They have also run the commentary of Mikael Pentikänen.
- At 14:53 Helsingin Sanomat apologizes on their site publicly.
- Blog stats hit 15 000
- Presently (Wednesday ) blog stats just hit 54 000 and show that the original posting had been read c. 18 000 times and comments keep on coming.
That’s about it. So?
The Concept of Copyright Exists for a Reason
It is not just a simple copyright infringement. If it had been IS or IL accidentally using an image of mine they had no right to use, it would have been a simple question of writing them a fat bill/invoice. No, this is Helsingin Sanomat, the biggest national daily. The one who sets – or at least has set – the standards of what is done and how things are done in this country when it comes to print journalism. Big difference, a world of difference. The paper which – at least so far – has been recording the unofficial documented history of our country.
The original article was published on Saturday. Two days later, they run it again on their website. Same images. Everybody in HS is now busy saying how this is a mistake. What, you don’t read your own paper on Sunday? And you do it again on Monday?
Five years ago this would have gone unnoticed. That was time before FB, Twitter and the social media in general. Worth noting that HS started reacting when my blog stats hit five figures for this article. A substantial part of their readership had actually read the article, were recommending it, forwarding it, sharing it…Suddenly one realized that this might actually do some serious damage. Have an effect on circulation levels – which are at the all time low already.
Mistake? That the original idea was to do “revinnäinen” – a tearsheet? One: we should really question the common policy of just taking a copy of something and use that as an illustration. Two: In this case (Optio Gaala 2010), it was a closed party. You were not invited. Suck it up, deal with it. You want to write about it: absolutely, go ahead. Try to be funny, pick on your colleagues at OPTIO? That is your right, again, go ahead. Freedom of speech, absolutely. Need illustration? Take a picture of the OPTIO lying on the desk. Draw an image. Whatever. But: the last time I checked, simple stealing was a crime.
Mistake? That the directions given were obscure? So you are saying that your staff is incompetent? Which one, the leadership or the poor soul doing the scanning? Both? More people? Because you do not need to go to journalism school to know that one should be extra careful when copy-pasting other peoples work. Default value there: it is illegal.
Then somebody opens the Photoshop and takes away the captions and the logo. Hello? A first year student of journalism would raise his/her hand immediately and say “excuse-me, but isnt’ this illegal?” How can this go unnoticed?
Changing Times, Changing Standards
I wrote in my previous post Clear Signs where the Future will Not Be (towards the end of the article) that HS will have serious problems when they try to scale down their operation and maintain some standards. With this incidence, I so rest my case.
Some of you might also have read the article I wrote for Journalisti about half a year ago, called Suicide by Choking (Itsemurha kuristamalla). So relevant today. This is what you have when you just cut, cut, cut… (well, paste also occasionally ;-)) … and cut, cut, cut…
You don’t have enough trained seasoned professionals anymore doing quality work in a product which should be of the highest standards there is. And if you believe that it was a mistake, then the reasons for that mistake lie deeper. Mistakes of this kind are only a symptom.
Or is it a case of “Je m’en foutisme” (as I often say – a term I quote from Harold Pinter’s Betrayal – oh how appropriate a title today…) i.e “I dont’ give a f… as long as I make money with it”. If you believe that is the case, then again, the underlying true reasons for that to happen are elsewhere.
I have said earlier (Deathwatch of Our Daily Print) that I see no future for the daily print to exist in its present form for very long time anymore. This incident is yet again another nail into that coffin. What I am seriously concerned about are the principles of journalism we base this approaching “post-physical-daily-print-era” – when you don’t even need to deliberately open the scanner and push the start button… just a simple screen capture is enough
“We usually get it right“, comments Erkki Kylmänen for M&M. No, I’m sorry, but no you don’t: see the article on the use of pseudo-HDR in the Icelandic volcano case I posted in the spring: Lots of papers (including HS) were running that image when any professional should see within 2 seconds what was going on…. “Others make mistakes too…” one could argue in this case. Yeah, and? The point being would be, so can you, right?
Why do I Care?
HS gets mentioned way too often in my discussion. Somebody could even interpret it that I have some hidden motives to go after HS. Absolutely no. If you read my blog – if you have read it before – I hope you understand and you can see that I am genuinely interested and worried about the way our (print)media looks like – where it is going – or actually: that it is not going anywhere but slowly committing a suicide. I am not pointing an accusing finger to an easy target called HS– just because due to their “mistake” they made themselves vulnerable – or because I enjoy going on and on about it.
In this present situation when the print is trying to maximize their profit with less and less investment, this is what you get (e.g Sanoma News made 18.5 million of profit during the first two quarters of 2010). In this idiotic effort, the death of journalistic principles – no, the death of quality journalism – is just collateral damage.
These are huge issues – and concern all of us. Arrogance, sloppiness, je m’enfoutisme, anything-to-get-more-eyeballs-for-minimal-investment, totally one sided forced copyright deals… the list is long and not very pleasant to see.
As in the end of my last post, let me offer you a free bit of advice: You want to keep your audience – a loyal audience which could trust you?
The word to be focusing on is integrity. On all levels.
UPDATE: Wed 6.10 at 17.20
I just got off the phone with Mikael Pentikäinen, editor in chief of Helsingin Sanomat. It had been brought to his attention (ref. to my reply to Niko Herlin in the original post) that I would have appreciated a phone call from the HS side – and he made it now. He said he was sorry for all that had happened, it was simply a mistake – a very unfortunate one – and it was totally unintentional. He’d been up-dated on the events yesterday afternoon and immediately made steps necessary to amend the situation. I have never met him in person – but I’d dare say I’m pretty good judge of character: he was honest about it.
I agree: HS did the right thing by keeping their apology on their front page for the whole of yesterday. And I appreciate him taking the time to phone me – and I told him that.
I made a call for integrity as the last words of my actual post. He acted now accordingly.