I thought I was done talking about Chuffpo here until Whet, who is the Web Editor at the Reader, noticed that ChuffPo has been running blurbs and writeups from the Reader, TOC, Centerstage, Decider and others. Whet explains it all in posts here and here:
I’ve known this for a while, and perhaps it’s hurbis on my part, but I find everything ChuffPo does, from the top down, to be substandard so I have a hard time getting worked up about anything it does. The original content it features is from writers who either do better work elsewhere or do crap work altogether, the attribution they use is so disguised it might as well not exist (if even Roger Ebert’s confused then what should we expect from other readers), and it has no original voice or outlook of its own. Since the site’s had minimal impact locally, I figure whoever’s reading it doesn’t know any better, is attracted by nothing by the name and the site will eventually wither away.
I don’t know anyone in Chicago who says “Yeah, I really like ChuffPo. It’s an interesting read.” Everyone who ever mentions it is doing so with ire raised (whether its about its aggregation strategy, its practice of not paying its writers*, its habit of not posting critical comments, etc.). The last time I heard anyone mention anything about a post** from any of its writers was during the whole Steve Dolinsky*** kerfuffle and again – ire raised.
All this explains why I haven’t been as worked up about it as Whet. It’s been lousy from Day One, and continues to be lousy. It doesn’t seem to be doing direct harm to TOC and since any given day hands me a solid list of things that do (or potentially might), my focus ends up there. Is it wrong they’re running whole writeups from other, better publications? Yes. Would I join in a call for them to change their attribution/linking/aggregation strategies? Yes. Is it its worst crime? Arguably, no.
But perhaps it’s worth taking a stand against this due to the theory of the slippery slope. If a site like Chuffpo – which uses other publications’ content to acquire millions of dollars in financing that could be spent on more responsible media sites – can get away with something like this, what’s to stop any other site from doing the same. There’s nothing inherently wrong with being an aggregator of content, but Whet makes a compelling argument that ChuffPo’s way is the wrong way to do it (a.k.a. flat-out stealing), especially if they’re making money off it.
So perhaps tomorrow I’ll ask for some of that money back.
* A practice I defend, in part, here.
** Technically, the last time I heard anyone mention anything about a ChuffPo post was when Mike Doyle wrote about the CTA’s plan to eject the homeless from its cars. But that was originally a post Doyle wrote for his own site Chicago Carless, which proves its writers save their best work for other places (or cross-post it).
*** Who’s no longer writing for them, it seems.