Setting Record Straight on Blog Citation

The Tredyffrin Township Democratic Committee, as the local political party, recently helped candidate Molly Duffy and her campaign committee with the preparation of a campaign postcard mailed to residents.

Molly Duffy campaign card thumbnailThere were 2 sides to the card:  one presenting Molly Duffy’s optimistic outlook and can-do attitude.  The other side presented some of her accomplishments and contrasted her positions in 3 areas with those of her opponent.  The layout was very standard with the 3 comparison subject areas appearing equally under the heading of each candidate’s name.

The entries for “Economic Revitalization” specifically focused on Paoli and the AMTRAK transportation center–contrasting Molly’s view that “the Paoli Transit Center will be a catalyst for a renaissance in Paoli that can spread to our other commercial corridors,…” with a Mike Heaberg statement that he was “not all that thrilled with the Paoli Transit Center—can’t wait for Paoli to be like 69th St. or Norristown.”

The source for the Heaberg quote is a blog post entry at Pattye Benson’s Community Matters blog.  Ms. Benson took exception with the use of the quote and asked TTDem chair Dariel Jamieson for an explanation.  Ms. Jamieson sent Pattye Benson a 500-word letter explaining both our accuracy in using the quote and acknowledging how our citation could have been fuller.

Ms. Benson has now written a blog post titled, “The Use of Community Matters on Campaign Ad without Permission . . . Illegal or just Disrespectful?”  For some reason, Ms. Benson chose to publish only a partial excerpt of the Jamieson letter, extracting the documentation we provided, and left standing the implication our candidate’s campaign information was incorrect and misused material.  [full text of Jamieson letter below]

There are several key points:

  • Use of the blog content. TTDems used the blog entry from Community Matters as from any other journalistic source, under fair-use principles.
  • Anonymity. Mr. Heaberg has regularly posted at the Benson blog as “Mike in Berwyn,” and in the specific instance of the quote was reporting for Ms. Benson as “Resident #1.”  In protesting our use of the quote, Ms. Benson was concerned that it implied she had failed to maintain confidentiality of her anonymous posters.  What we sought to reassure her–and which she strangely failed to publish–was that Mr. Heaberg in statements at public meetings and in self-referring entries on the blog had publicly “outed” himself.  Hence, we could for both clarity and documentation use the quote.
  • Citation. Although working within the confines of a small postcard, we still should have used more words in our citation of the quote.  Ms. Jamieson acknowledged this failure in her letter.  We cited the blog name, but did not include the date of the posting.  Indeed, using more space we could have given the complete URL address for the blog entry, which we can provide here—

Examples of self-referencing statements that confirm Mr. Heaberg’s views are postings as “Mike in Berwyn” in the long comments threads of blog discussion.  An  example:

Ms. Benson is on record in that same thread saying that she hopes “that Paoli Transportation Center stays on course!”  We are perplexed why she is taking issue with our documentation and why she chose to censor the evidence portion of Ms. Jamieson’s letter.

We apologize for tedium and argumentativeness here.  However, we want you, as a TTDem supporter, assured there was no unfairness or trickery in Molly Duffy’s campaign efforts. There is an undeniable contrast in Mr. Heaberg’s negative view of community revitalization, particularly in Paoli, with Molly Duffy’s more positive and visionary approach.

Ms. Benson has said she wants our community fairly informed.  We wish that she had included all of Dariel Jamieson’s response, but we will persist in believing that we jointly share that desire.

========= full text of Jamieson letter to Pattye Benson, Community Matters =======
May 11, 2011

Dear Pattye,

This letter is in response to your May 7 email expressing concern over using the Mike Heaberg quote from your Community Matters blog in the Molly Duffy comparison mailer.

Please understand our use of a quote from Community Matters actually stems from our respect for the community forum you have provided on-line.  It is an established and trusted source of information and commentary.  In essence, we were treating you like we would any other journalistic source, quoting a small extract under fair-use principles. If we were quoting Mr. Heaberg from the Main Line Suburban Times, for example, we would have attributed the quote in a similar matter.

Pattye, we also understand and want to reassure your readers that you did not breach any confidentiality about identity of your anonymous blog posters. It is Mr. Heaberg who publicly outed himself as both “Mike in Berwyn” and “Resident #1” in your blog content. Though using a pseudonym on the blog, Mr. Heaburg’s September 19 “editorial comment” as part of his notes as “Resident #1” were publicly spoken by him at the September 18, 2011 meeting that was the subject of the notes.  Mr. Heaburg has told many people publicly that he was commenting under the name “Mike in Berwyn” on the blog.  We used his quote sourced from your website blog precisely for clarity–because we did not want to be accused of misquoting him. Again, we see your website as performing a journalist function.

We did make several mistakes.  We were wrong not to give a fuller citation, including the date.  In our effort to minimize every word used on a small mailing card, we did not provide adequate attribution.
Further, we did not anticipate that anyone would interpret the appearance of a quote from your blog as an endorsement or sign of support by you for our candidate.  If Mr. Heaberg’s comment had been published in the Washington Post and we quoted it with attribution, “Washington Post, 9/21/2010,” we couldn’t imagine that anyone would think the Washington Post was itself expressing that view.

We appreciate the fact that you have created a thoughtful public forum that encourages a focus on the issues we care about in our community.  You have remained scrupulously neutral on political races, and made concerted efforts to provide the community with candidate information.  For this we are grateful.

I don’t agree, though, with your statement that Community Matters was “used for negative campaign purposes.” There was no unfairness or trickery in our efforts. There is an undeniable contrast in the views of Mr. Heaberg and Molly Duffy.  Just like you, we want the community to be fairly informed. On that I hope we agree.

Finally, we are very sorry if, as publisher of the quoted material, you have been placed in an uncomfortable position or negatively affected personally.  Our only intention was to contrast Mr. Heaberg’s negative view of community revitalization, particularly in Paoli, with Molly Duffy’s more positive and visionary approach.

Dariel Jamieson
Chair, Tredyffrin Township Democratic Committee

This entry was tagged with these issues: , , , , , , , .