An editor at Health.com sent this message to me and my readers as a response to my post Three Things Not to Say about Plagiarism to a Blogger. She did not claim to speak for the writer. Please see my response below.
I’m the Health.com editor who worked on this story, and I just got off the phone with Kelly Young. I asked if she could kindly post my response, which is the essence of what I tried to communicate in our conversation.
We have the utmost respect for you and RAwarrior.com. What’s more, we’re profoundly grateful. Last year, you agreed to talk to one of our writers and be featured in one of our “My Story” articles. (http://www.health.com/health/condition-article/0,,20388250,00.html)
We’ve been humbled again and again by the people who have serious, debilitating ailments, but who are still willing to talk to us and give us permission to feature their stories on our site in an effort to help other people.
What’s more, we don’t view blogs as competitors. We try to direct our readers to blogs whenever possible, and we’ve linked to RAwarrior.com in the past (and would do so again). http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20441914_19,00.html In fact, we’re currently working on a story about great RA blogs and resources, a format that’s worked well for patients with other conditions, like inflammatory bowel disease.
Another format we’ve used is “what not to say” type stories, which we’ve done for conditions such as depression. When I started to research this topic for RA, I turned to message boards, including a 2009 discussion on Daily Strength titled “what not to say.” http://www.dailystrength.org/c/Rheumatoid_Arthritis/forum/7003552-not-say
I asked writer Katherine Tweed to interview patients and experts to see if some of these and other comments really rubbed them the wrong way (and why). A user on the Daily Strength message board had cut and paste the list from your blog, but it was on page 8 out of 10 pages of comments. I didn’t see that user’s post or your blog before assigning this story. The similarity is upsetting, but unintentional. I have no interest either professionally or ethically in using someone else’s content, particularly since I’ve had my own content appear on other people’s sites without permission or attribution.
That being said, I just also wanted to introduce myself and make it clear that I’m open to feedback. Have any timely, original, health-related topics you want to write about? I’m open to pitches too, and happy to assign stories to any writer I trust. My email is Theresa_tamkins[at]health.com. Thanks, Theresa
My advice to Health.com
- Health.com should credit me on their webpage as the original source of my words like the poster on Daily Strength did.
- Health.com should address people whose comments were deleted from their site.
- Writers at Health.com and elsewhere should refrain from using words without labeling a source.
I had a long conversation with Theresa when she called me the other day. There were two points which I reiterated to her:
1) Sources must be documented, whether they are blogs, discussion boards or whatever.
My website earns the right to display the Honor Code symbol, in part by documentation of sources. Realistic citing of sources is something that readers should look for wherever they read. Where is the link to the abstract? How do you know that fact? What did you read to get this information? If it’s a blog, say so. Since we agree that blogs are good sources of information, cite them as the credible sources that they are.
2) Hiring patients is a better business model
There are at least a hundred RA patients who could write an article good enough for Health.com or WebMD or their look-alike sites. Health Central has pioneered the patient-written column and it’s a good step. But I encouraged Health.com to go even farther. I challenged them to give patients the jobs that they give freelancers.
Hire patients to write stories. Become a trusted destination where readers know that real patients even edit the articles for accuracy or sensitivity. So many sites are making a killing claiming to give patients a voice. Why not just do it?
I’ve laid out this challenge a number of times. If someone eventually takes me up on it, remember you heard it here first.
- Three Things Not to Say about Plagiarism to a Blogger
- RA Is Not “arthritis”: a PSA on Rheumatoid Arthritis
- If You Do Not Have Rheumatoid Arthritis, Please Read This