Over the weekend I noticed that New Rochelle Patch editor Allison Esposito used without a permission an image of the three suspects in the murder of Kevin Williams on her site that I had created from three mug shots provided to me by the New Rochelle Police Department. This is commonly known as plagiarism. I might have also made a case that I owned a copyright on the photo as I had “transformed” (a legal term) the images into a new image. I wrote about, pointed out that the two images were the same and sent emails to Esposito, her boss Katie Ryan O’Connor and Hudson Valley Regional Editor for Patch.com asking that the image be taken down while pointing out that had they asked, and given attribution, they would have been welcome to use the photo.
Rather than acknowledge their “error” they chose to ignore me. I then sent an email to a journalism list of which I am a member seeking advice and was urged to contact their bosses Patch.com publisher Warren Webster and Editor-in-Chief Brian Farnham. To date I have not heard back from any of them. The story was then picked up two journalism web sites: Romenesko and Media Bistro.
Instead of responding to me, on Tuesday September 28th, Ms. O’Connor issued a statement denying everything and making various misleading statements with, I believe, the intent of damaging my reputation so that other journalists and the public would believe her claim that Patch.com had not obtained the image on their site from Talk of the Sound.
Simply put, our New Rochelle Patch Local Editor Allison Esposito did not plagiarize anything from Mr. Cox’s blog in any form.
The objects in question — police generated mug shots — are publicly available and any similarity to Mr. Cox’s presentation of those public images is purely coincidental. Linking mug shots together in Photoshop (in this case, apparently doing nothing more than placing three similar sized objects in a row) is standard operating procedure for news organizations everywhere.
I then posted a detailed description of how I obtained the three mug shots and turned them into a single image and provided an animation of the images on top of each other. My response proved beyond doubt that the placing of the three images was not coincidence and that they were, in fact, identical.
Today O’Connor had a new statement:
“I will not tolerate plagiarism of any kind from anyone who works under me and I have spoke to Allison at length about this.”
The image in question has now been removed but O’Connor has not retracted her previous, false statement and continues to sling mud in the hope of diverting attention from the rather obvious fact that her statement was false and that either she or Allison Esposito or both lied and did so repeatedly.
My work here is done.
I received the following email from Brian Farnham, Editor-in-Chief, Patch.com. He called. I have accepted his version of events and his apology and consider the matter now closed.
It has come to my attention that the editor of New Rochelle Patch, Allison Esposito, misled us when questioned about the use of the mugshot photos in her story of Sept 24 regarding the stabbing death on North Avenue: http://newrochelle.patch.com/articles/man-24-stabbed-to-death-on-north-avenue
The image she posted was, in fact, a download of the composite image you made from the police mug shots. I sincerely apologize for this unattributed and unauthorized use of your image. We have extremely high standards of journalism here at Patch, and Allison did not live up to them. Her behavior was unacceptable and we are taking immediate disciplinary action. The image has already been removed from our story.
I am cc’ing Bill Densmore on this email, since we sent him our official response to your original charges. I need to point out that when this issue first arose, we conducted an internal investigation in good faith and were satisfied with the answers we got. The Regional Editor who wrote the response, Katie O’Connor, should not be blamed for the misinformation she received.
In every community where we launch a Patch, we make it a point to be a positive part of the ecosystem of media that exists there, and we not only abide by a sense of fair play but wholeheartedly welcome collaboration with other outlets. So it is especially distressing to me that the New Rochelle Patch has gotten off on this wrong foot. Please accept my personal apologies. I hope we can find ways for our sites to work together in the future.
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