The term “re-write document” identifies something that journalists freely use, often without credit or (much) editing, as source material for articles. The term’s connotation is decidedly negative, i.e. journalist’s know one should not rely on re-write documents but it happens a lot anyway.
Typically, a re-write documents is a product of public relations (e.g. press releases). But the internet in general, and blogs in particular, have increased the numbers of these things to such an extent that using them seems irresistible.
One particularly strange use of the re-write document is the blog round-up story, in which an online reporter checks in with the (usual suspect) blogs to check out the buzz on a particular issue. CBS News quoted me recently in this way. While I’m always glad to be quoted, I was less than impressed with the results. Such round-ups should not be written without calling the blogger to do a follow-up interview. Such verification is necessary if for no other reason than to ensure the reporter quotes the blogger in (something like) the proper context.
My point is to call out the assumption among too many reporters that original reporting on the web amounts to free pickings, a separate class of journalism they can snag and call their own. That’s gotta stop.
This problem occurs partly because the commercial enterprise of journalism and the arrogance of institutional affiliation encourage the idea among pay-check journalists that they alone practice the craft. One amusing thing about this: Journalism ain’t rocket science. Anyone with a modicum of smarts and the will to learn can gain the skills necessary to do a good job. All they have to do is read (besides the local paper, here’s a good starting point).