I had a delightful conversation yesterday with Don Wasek, co-owner of Buc-ee’s, and an acknowledged novice blogger.
“I am new at this,” he said in an email responding to my complaint that the Buc-ee’s blog had lifted my words. Then he asked if he could call me for some advice.
We chatted on the phone for a good bit, talking about blogging and the whys and hows. He said he uses the Buc-ee’s Blog to post the testimonials and comments that pour into the corporate Website from Buc-ee’s fans. (By way of explanation, the other co-owner of the convenience store chain is “Beaver” Aplin.)
Wasek explained to me that he didn’t use people’s names with their comments because the woman who set it up for him told him not to use people’s names without their permission. But he said he really thinks it’s more believable when you use people’s names.
Well, we sure agree on that one. I suggested he start soliciting permission from people who send in comments so he can use their words with their names on the blog — most of them would probably love it.
As for other bloggers, I told him that we like being picked up and quoted by blogs like his. The blogosphere works best when you quote other blogs in your blog and you link out to them. That helps people find your blog, and it lends credibility to your blog.
So I walked him through the blockquote format and showed him how to link out to another blog, in this case, to mine. (It’s all better now, he even spelled my name right!) I also suggested that he do the same link thing on another post he had on the blog quoting a story about Buc-ee’s from my alma mater, MySanAntonio.com.
As we were winding down, he asked if all of my students at UNLV just communicate through blogs. I chuckled and explained that I was teaching the students to use blogs to commit journalism.
And then, maybe we could offer up a student intern to be Buc-ee’s blog guru for the summer. Ya think?
I’ve been doing this journalism gig for a good while now, and never before have I had to take on an imaginary beaver for a very real case of plagiarism.
If the beaver had spoken to anyone who knows me, he might have realized what a huge mistake it is to steal words from me. I take it very, very seriously.
As I’ve told my students at the beginning of each semester, in the 10 years or so I spent as an editor, I only fired three people; two of them were fired for plagiarism, one online and one in print.
Last fall, a few students didn’t take that warning seriously. Four of them stole other people’s words and turned them in as their own in class assignments. One stole from a story written by a reporter for the Associated Press, another stole from a story in the Las Vegas Review Journal and another stole from both of them and from the student newspaper, the Rebel Yell, taking words from a story written by another of my students!
They flunked the class. I was very happy to give them the grade they earned for such thievery: an F. Those students are now on academic probation, and if they do it again, they will be kicked out of school.
So what to do about the beaver? I can’t fire him and I can’t flunk him (though he has already flunked himself).
I can do something even better: turn him into a teaching tool!
Among other things, I’m teaching blogging this semester, and there’s been some discussion in class about whether the rules are different for bloggers. The short answer is no. Whether you are published in a newspaper, have your story broadcast on television or radio, or if you post in a blog, the same basic rules apply.
Here’s my simple version of the most important rules of journalism:
Rule No. 1: No stealing other people’s stuff.
Rule No. 2: No making stuff up.
Now back to the beaver. I’m sending this blog post to the email address on Buc-ee’s corporate Web site. That’s because Buc-ee’s Blog doesn’t have any contact information and has the comments field disabled on its blog.
I’ll keep you posted.
In the meantime, I’d love to see some student comments here after we talk about Buc-ee’s blunder in class today.
Update: Here is the text of the note that I put into the comment area of Buc-ee’s corporate Website this evening:
I am writing to alert you that the blog that is being compiled under your auspices (Buc-ee’s Beaver Blog http://buc-ees.com/wordpress/) is not properly crediting people who have written about Buc-ee’s.
I am a journalist, and the post I wrote about Buc-ee’s, was purloined and posted, word-for-word on the Buc-ee’s Blog in a manner that made it appear as if Buc-ee’s had written the words.
I have written about the plagiarized post here: http://charlotteanne.wordpress.com/2007/09/17/the-damn-beaver-stole-my-words/
I would be quite happy for you to properly quote my work *with proper attribution,* and I will update my audience (and the students in my journalism class at the university) once you have done so.
I look forward to hearing from you,
They’ve got a couple dozen billboards along the highway, including one that says, “Eat here, get gas,” and my husband’s favorite, “Ice. Made from scratch.”
Since we drive the route often to go see my favorite oncologist, it’s become a tradition for us to stop in just to see if the restrooms are as clean as they claim. (To quote another billboard: “Clean restrooms or your money back.”)
What they really need on their Website is a Flickr feed for photos of their billboards …
Tonight I succumbed to two fridge magnet versions of the billboards at the checkout. One says:
“Ice. Beer. Jerky.
All 3 Food Groups!