Soup & Bread watches newspapers eat themselves alive

(image stolen from here)

A digression, for your snow days:

Soup & Bread’s gotten some nice attention of late, and I am loathe to sound a complaint. Because, really — it’s great! But the (dormant) reporter in me is bemused. Three weeks ago Jessica Reaves wrote a nice little piece on us for her employer, the Chicago News Cooperative, which published it — titled Soup and Sociability, For a Worthy Cause — on its website on Thursday, January 20.

It gets better. The CNC has a deal with the New York Times to provide Chicago-specific content to the regional edition of the Grey Lady twice a week — and to my delight and surprise, Jessica’s piece turned up there the following day. So far, all good. Yay new media models!

Then this popped into my Google alerts, five days later: A writeup from a Chicago blogger paraphrasing Reaves’s story, with no mention of the author, the CNC, or the NYT, tricking it out with some info from LiveStrong, and cribbing a recipe from the Soup & Bread Cookbook, with no credit going there either. (For the record: That white bean-escarole-turkey meatball soup was cooked up by Celeste Dolan.)

Ah well. Bloggers. What can you do! They’re loose cannons. Right?

Four days after that, the same story turns up on the Christian Science Monitor website, which farms its food blogging out to a network of independent contractors. And then it shot to Los Angeles. And then to Europe.

None of them refer back to the original story. In the Los Angeles iteration, even Terry Boyd, the Chicago blogger, whom I have never met, has been stripped of his putative authorship.

I feel like a crank that this bugs me. I mean, at least no errors were introduced in this game of aggregation-telephone. Thank heavens for small favors.

But it’s instructive. Who commissioned this information? Which publication paid a reporter to come to our event, to talk to me in person, to make sure everyone’s name was spelled correctly? What city’s advertising is supporting the editorial work? Readers of Blue Kitchen, Los Angeles Online Daily, Europe Top News, and even the eminently respectable Christian Science Monitor will never know.


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4 Responses to “Soup & Bread watches newspapers eat themselves alive”

  1. Tweets that mention Soup & Bread watches newspapers eat themselves alive « Soup and Bread -- Says:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Melissa Rothberg, Daniel and Sei Jin Lee, Martha Bayne. Martha Bayne said: Cranky thoughts on the future of (soup) journalism: […]

  2. Terry Boyd Says:

    Wow. I’m really sorry I upset you, Martha. And reading your piece here, I totally understand your point of view. I didn’t mean to. My wife bought me the Soup & Bread cookbook for Christmas, and my intent was to publicize the wonderful event you and your colleagues have created. That’s why I linked to this blog and to the Hideout website. Some of my back story about Soup & Bread came from the book’s introduction itself. Seeking more information online, I came across Jessica’s article and some other sources. Regarding the recipe, you’re right, it’s similar to the one cooked by Celeste. It’s also similar to any number of white bean and escarole soup recipes out there. That is the nature of cooking. Most recipes are variations and adaptations of numerous others. Again, I’m truly sorry I offended you. The cool event you’ve created deserves a wide audience; I’m sure it’s already inspiring similar events in other cities. I merely wanted to help spread the word.

  3. zoezolbrod Says:

    Wow. Very instructive.

  4. Martha Says:

    Hi Terry –

    I would not describe myself as offended, or upset. As I said, as a freelance writer and former newspaper editor, I’m just bemused, and I thought this string of examples provided an instructive case study in the evolution of modern reporting. I realize that recipes cannot be copyrighted, and that nowadays there are any number of sources of information floating around in the ether – though it’s funny to me that you cited a source for info about escarole, a vegetable, but not any sources for info about S&B or me, a human. I do find the timing and the similarities between your lede and Jessica’s startling, but I take you at your word that you weren’t consciously ripping off her reporting.

    I’m glad you like the cookbook, and truly appreciate your interest in our project. Thanks.

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