But back to the garden writers. A good portion of
the 700 attendees were garden product company reps courting garden writers and there
were also a good number of spouses dragged along who had that "If I see one
more coleus I’m going to scream" look in their eyes. I suspect as well that more
than a few GWA members and attendees have no writing credits or even ambitions.
As two ladies told me, "We’re here for the trial plants and free goodies."
Shameful. Not that I went home empty-handed, of course.
During a workshop about Googling
for story ideas and research a speaker opined that NOTHING from the
Internet should be used as a source unless it came from a site that had
".edu" in the web page address. Which I found pretty humorous as I
often use corporate sites and know that many ".orgs" are just as
reputable, if not more well-researched, than many .edus. If I just
stuck to .edus, I’d never find most of the great trial-and-error posts
about actual growing experiences by other bloggers and in forums such
as Dave’s Garden. In any case, one big-city newspaper writer in the
audience spoke up to disagree, saying all they do is make sure to
attribute the source, but that other non-edu sites are seen as fine
sources by their esteemed bosses, so should be good enough for your
local papers and radio shows.
During the Q&A of this session, the topic of blogs came up and
what you could take from them to use in your own article and how you
would then attribute this source. The panel’s reply almost made
me apoplectic! They said: "These people put it out there and it is
there for the taking" and to basically not worry about any attribution,
link, sourcing, etc. Now this is a group that fights tooth and nail
for its members to get paid by newspapers who buy only "first rights"
to articles, then put them on their websites without additional
compensation. And here they were, my esteemed colleagues, actually
promoting theft and plagiarism!
permission for my articles to be used by anyone else." Another said, "I post my
newspaper column to my blog so that I have a place for people to read it after
the print edition is gone. I most certainly do not give permission for others
to use my writing." The panel seemed fairly unconcerned with these objectors and even
implied that if you don’t have a copyright statement at the top of your blog
that it is fair game for any takers because it is on the web. As if the
medium and ease of theft justifies the crime.
Afterwards, as I discussed the session among others, the attitudes ranged from: "What is a blog?" to "Yes, of
course blogs are free to take from," to "You read those? Who has the
time?" to "They are worthless anyway; why would anyone lift anything from
them?" Even the best garden writers – from your favorite book authors to
magazine essayists to newspaper columnists and TV show hosts – are painfully
ignorant of one of the best tools of communication since the invention of the
printing press. We need to educate these people and to start that campaign, I’m asking the GWA to present a panel discussion on
garden blogging at their next annual meeting.
Here is my big take-home lesson from the conference. If you blog or
post anything on your web site that you consider YOUR WRITING, attach a strong
copyright statement to it. Your online writing has little worth in the eyes of
the majority of people out there and it is up to you to police its use and