It’s not rare for reporters from different outlets to be working on the same or similar stories at the same time, and often reporters will build off the earlier work of others. One thing all journalists appreciate: Being credited when their scoop informs the later reporting of others. One thing they don’t appreciate: Well, you see where this is going…
Recently, WUSA9’s Jim Osman and the Washington Times‘ Andrea Noble got into a tiff on Twitter over whether Osman should’ve credited Noble in a pair of his stories on D.C. Councilmembers’ trip to Las Vegas. Noble had reported in July that D.C. councilmembers traveling to Las Vegas had run up a $14,000 tab on the taxpayer’s dime, a scoop she got after filing a Freedom of Information Act request to the Council. The argument erupted after Osman reported the same thing a week later—-and then advanced the story in a later report—-without mentioning Noble had broken it in the first place.
So Noble deployed an unusual, and ultimately humorous, use of FOIA: She FOIAed Osman’s FOIA.
It turned out that when Osman submitted a FOIA for details on the trip, he simply asked the Council for “any and all documents released to the Washington Times newspaper (under a FOIA request) as it relates expenses incurred during a Las Vegas conference trip.” That’s not a rare tactic—-but journalistic etiquette would suggest that at this point he should’ve credited Noble. He didn’t, which the Post‘s Mike DeBonis noted on Twitter after Osman’s original report aired:
The next week, Osman did another FOIA-sourced story on how the price of the same Vegas trip had ballooned to more than $30,000. Noble then called out Osman for not attributing her original reporting.
.@jimosman Still missing the part where you give me credit for 1st reporting story. But nice job swooping in like a vulture on the scraps.— Andrea Noble (@anobleDC) August 16, 2014
In a series of now-deleted tweets (Noble took screen shots), Osman pushed back, and even suggested that Noble follow up on his latest story and credit WUSA9:
Meanwhile, Osman’s boss, WUSA9 News Director Fred D’Ambrosi, tweeted at Noble, implying (at least to the kind of Twitter user who follows minor media spats) that WUSA9 hadn’t depended at all on Noble’s original story:
Osman didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Photo by James Marvin Phelps via Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0