Hey, Daily Mail: Would you like some photography with your churnalism?

Hey, Daily Mail: Would you like some photography with your churnalism?

As a blogger, I speedily rewrite breaking news in haste and hopefully add more than a few viewpoints of my own before hitting publish. But until Sergey Brin has me on speed dial, that’s just the way things have to be in order to get the news from point a to point b to our readers.

The blogger’s irony I’m about to showcase here needs only one explanation, I am not trying to pass off this juicy story from Poynter’s as my own. I’m simply repurposing the email content on our site to draw your attention to the fact that reporters sometimes hilariously (sadly) rip each other off on the Internet. Right.

So here goes:

Washington Post reporter Steve Hendrix wrote a story titled “F-16 pilot was ready to give her life on Sept. 11.” The Daily Mail, a UK based website, then wrote this story about the exact same woman named Heather ‘Lucky’ Penney, which has a very long title, “I’d be a kamikaze pilot: Fighter pilot recalls her would-be ‘suicide’ mission to take down United 93 – and the heroes who did it for her.”

To be honest, it wasn’t a complete rip off. I imagine it took writer Thomas Durante at least an hour to rewrite Hendrix’s prose. But here’s where they screwed themselves. Hendrix wrote a follow-up story about Penney when the Washington Post learned that her father could well have been one of the pilots she was ordered to take down. And The Daily Mail thought, I want to write that story too! But unfortunately, they couldn’t find a photo of Penney’s father so what did the freelance photo assistant do? He emailed Hendrix… (not smart).

Here’s their email exchange, copied from Poynter.

From: Bradford Noble

To: [Steve Hendrix]

Date: 09/15/2011 02:38 PM
Subject: Contacting Heather Penny

Hey Steve,

I work in the photo department at The Daily Mail and we are trying to chase down a picture of Heather Penny’s father to go in our story about her here, and I was wondering if you could put me in touch with the family? Or else know how I could get a hold a a photo of her dad, preferably one of them together.

Can you please give me a call at 212-543-XXXX or else respond via email. We are of course on deadline so sooner better – you know the drill.

Your article is great by the way!!

Thanks,

Bradford Noble

——-

From: Steve Hendrix
Sent: 15 September 2011 15:16
To: Bradford Noble
Subject: Re: Contacting Heather Penny

Hi Bradford,

Yes, the Mail is becoming increasingly well known around here for the kind of stories you do, sometimes so similar in their entirety to our own. I do see your original piece on Heather Penney (beautiful line this: “jet fuel practically coursed through her veins.” So much better than my own clunky “She had grown up smelling jet fuel.”)

And I’m not surprised to hear you’ve got one coming on the father’s role. We had one today! And I’m honored to see the same generous attribution.

To get a photo of her father, I’d track him down and ask him. That’s how we do it.

Best,
Steve

——

From: Bradford Noble
To: Steve Hendrix

Date: 09/15/2011 03:38 PM
Subject: RE: Contacting Heather Penny

I know what you mean and laughed when I read your email. I’m just working here freelance but have the utmost respect for reporters like yourself who write great ORIGINAL articles.

Having said that, and at the risk of you hating me even more, do you have the contact information for the family?

Perhaps we can even get a DIFFERENT image.

Imagine.

Maybe a phone number or an email?

Bradford Noble
Photo Editor

——-

From: Steve Hendrix/news/TWP
To: Bradford Noble
Date: 09/15/2011 03:54 PM
Subject: RE: Contacting Heather Penny

There’s no risk of that Brad. Try this: http://lmgtfy.com/?q=white+pages

Any man who uses LMGTFY is a friend of mine. Well done Steve Hendrix.

Featured image post: Shutterstock/Alexander Trinitatov

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