Below is a copy of an email that I have just sent to David Brookes, editor of the Birmingham Mail.
I would like your thoughts on a series of ‘similarities’ between articles posted on a website I edit (paradisecircus.com) and some on birminghammail.co.uk.
Paradise Circus is, as you may know, a site that evolved from Birmingham: It’s Not Shit (birminghamitsnotshit.co.uk) and features artistic responses to the city of Birmingham.
Since it launched it in 2012 it has run a very popular series ‘101 Things Birmingham Gave The World’ (you can see the 49 so far here http://paradisecircus.com/101-things-birmingham-gave-the-world/), this was the concept of one of our contributors Craig Hamilton and he and others — myself included — have worked hard on it, there are also plans for a book version. In essence each part of the series takes an either well known, or not so well known, fact about Birmingham and extrapolates circumstances in which the city could be said to be responsible for a larger concept. Some of these would be simple inventions, others are much more conceptual and deliberately tenuous.
We authors of the content have, since starting work on the project, noticed a good number of pieces on the Birmingham Mail website (possibly in the print edition too, I’ve not seen it) that were conceptually similar or which used the same jumping off points. There could be coincidence at play here but, like the old Ordinance Survey map makers who added in extra features to deter copies, some leaps of logic or ideas are too similar for our comfort.
One such is the article ‘Made in Brum: 21 top gadgets that Birmingham gave the world’ by David Bentley (http://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/nostalgia/made-brum-21-gadgets-birmingham-6940087): a large proportion of the subjects covered had previously been on Paradise Circus, which could just be a result of similar research but the passage on the invention of the computer is remarkably similar in concept to the PC piece on the Internet (http://paradisecircus.com/2013/07/18/101-things-brum-gave-the-world-no-33-the-internet/ by my colleague Jon Hickman).
The publication of this article on Thursday 26th June 2014: ‘Bizarre Brum: 14 funny facts you probably didn’t know about Birmingham’ again by David Bentley (http://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/midlands-news/bizarre-brum-14-funny-facts-7329822) contains a section on Birmingham’s supposed ‘invention’ of karaoke with concept and execution almost identical to the 101 Brum article I wrote and published on PC on the same subject in November 2012 (http://paradisecircus.com/2012/11/19/no-12-karaoke/).
I would like to know your thoughts on this. I suggest that your journalists would likely be well aware of our work, especially as your sister paper The Sunday Mercury used one of our pieces a week or so ago (which was asked for, paid for and credited). For my part the coincidences seem too great and I believe heavy inspiration is being taken by at least one Birmingham Mail journalist from our work: this damages our reputation and our ability to monetise our content.
I realise that in news terms it is usual for newspapers to use stories worked on or broken by other publications, but as your paper is new to the kind of online creative content around a city that we have been creating for over ten years it may not occur to your staff that their behaviour is unacceptable: as is the Mail’s use of the content in a commercial setting.
I look forward to your response
co-Editor Paradise Circus
CC: Executive Editor, Paul Cole,
An investigation into this sort of thing is asking for your help on Contributoria, a crowdsourcing journalism site.