At ProHipHop, the possibility of Suge Knight’s involvement in the assaults at the taping of the 2004 Vibe Awards is a recurring theme invoked most recently with Sunday’s arrest of the volatile owner of hip hop label Death Row Records. In searching for news accounts of yesterday’s arrest, I was reminded of prior observations regarding the lack of attribution to sources of news in the online hip hop press which I failed to address at the time. But now that Suge’s back in the news, a discussion of such issues is again timely.
In addition to news of Suge Knight’s arrest, a Google News search for “suge knight” currently returns earlier accounts of rumors that Jimmy James Johnson, the man accused of assaulting Dr. Dre at the Vibe Awards show taping, claimed that Suge Knight paid him to undertake the assault. As previously reported at ProHipHop, this report began at the New York Post based upon one of their “sources”. However, having worked it’s way through the online hip hop press, the story was picked up by Yahoo! Launch who reported that it came from AllHipHop.com.
I meant to address this issue at the time, because it illuminates the sometimes shoddy standards of online reportage. I have a lot of respect for AllHipHop.com. They do more original reporting than most hip hop news sites and I frequently link to them. However, they are often unclear about the source of their articles and will often bury the fact that it’s a wire report or from another publication a few paragraphs down. While that’s better than some websites, it makes it appear as if they are doing original reporting and then quoting an additional source.
Let’s break it down. The Jimmy James Johnson story was initiated at the New York Post. Examination of the AllHipHop.com version shows that it’s a rewrite of the NY Post version, plus some closing lines taken from other services, and was posted a day later. Since AllHipHop.com simply ran Nolan Strong’s byline, rather than clarifying that the whole article was from the NY Post, as they should have done by basic and longstanding journalistic practices, some sloppy somebody over at Yahoo! Launch or Yahoo! News took that at face value and attributed it to AllHipHop.com. But the screwup at Yahoo! illuminates worse issues in the online hip hop press.
While this is the first example I’ve seen of a story getting picked up by a major online news source and being misattributed in this way, the underlying practice is quite common on hip hop news sites. Actually, much worse things are going on elsewhere. Of course, hip hop bloggers like Hashim Warren have long pointed to such shoddy practices. Hip hop news services need to recognize that it’s time to step up their game. Hungry young professionals are on the move and old guys like me are also trying to break in. Not only are we bringing higher standards to the game, but we’re going to be reporting on your lack of professionalism.
In the case of AllHipHop.com, the problem could be alleviated fairly easily but it would reveal how much of their news (like most news) is based on newswire reports and press releases, plus stuff written elsewhere. But a newspaper would state that in the byline and an article such as the one attributed to Nolan Strong would probably not even list his name. Although I dig the way blogging and online publishing in general has opened up the news game, the shakeout that will occur in the next five years will reveal that old school professionalism is a still necessary foundation for real news gathering and reporting.