Goliath vs. David: Northfield News bullies AOL’s Northfield Patch

David vs. GoliathI noticed last week that the Northfield News editorial, Your voice could help save the post office, didn’t mention the fact that Northfield Patch had launched an online petition a couple days earlier, Save the Northfield Post Office! Sign the Online Petition

No surprise there. The Northfield News won’t link to needy area non-profit organizations in their stories (see this week’s story on the Community Action Center’s Food Shelf as an example), let alone their media competitors or any area bloggers.

But yesterday the Northfield News behaved very badly by putting up their own Save the Northfield Post Office Online Petition, linking to it from their Facebook Wall, and using nearly the exact wording of Patch’s petition.  The minor wording changes:

Patch: We, as Northfield residents, stand strongly opposed to the consideration of the United States Postal Service (USPS) to close the downtown Northfield Post Office.

News: As Northfield residents, we stand strongly opposed to the consideration of the United States Postal Service (USPS) to close the downtown Northfield Post Office.

And:

Patch: The downtown post office has been at its current location since 1936 and has become as much a symbol of Northfield as anything else in our community. 

News: The downtown post office has sat majestically overlooking the Cannon River at its current location since 1936 and is considered a symbol of Northfield as much as anything else in our community.

Everything else is word-for-word the same.

Renee Huckle MittelstaedtI don’t know if this plagiarism but it’s a shitty thing for Northfield News Publisher/Editor Sam Gett, Managing Editor Jerry Smith, and Associate Editor Suzy (Suzanne) Rook to do.

It’s this type of bullying behavior that makes me root for Goliath (media giant AOL is the owner of Patch) against David (Michigan-based Huckle Media LLC is the owner of the Northfield News and 16 other hometown newspapers).

If you know know former Northfielder Renee Huckle Mittelstaedt, now president and co-owner of Huckle Media LLC, consider contacting her about this.  No, Huckle Media doesn’t have a website (aarrgghh!) but Renee can be reached via her LinkedIn account and her Facebook account.

24 comments to  (Including 5 Discussion Threads) Goliath vs. David: Northfield News bullies AOL’s Northfield Patch

  • 1

    Griff, I got a call from Suzy Rook regarding the letter Suzie Nakasian and I wrote (published yesterday). Our letter originally included the link to the Patch petition and Suzy wanted to know if I would ok the change to a Northfield News petition instead.

    I said yes because I thought if there was an additional petition on another site, the appeal for support might reach a broader audience and gain more signatures in the end.

    That said, I’ve already voiced my support for Patch here and applaud their being first out of the gate with the petition, providing more coverage, and having an easier to navigate website. I’d just say the News is struggling to adapt to a changed media environment.

    • 1.1
      Griff Wigley says:

      Thanks, Betsey. That’s informative, ie, that the Northfield News is so averse to linking to anyone else that they went to such great lengths in this case.

    • 1.2
      Griff Wigley says:

      Note that:

      * the Nfld News has not linked to the petition from their home page

      * the link to their petition showed up on the Wall of their Facebook page because their website software is set to automatically post all new news story headlines there.

      * proof that they initially copied the complete text of the Patch petition is indicated by the wording of the automated post to Facebook: “We, as Northfield residents, stand strongly opposed to the consideration of the United States Postal Service (USPS) to close the downtown Northfield Post Office.” That’s a Patch sentence that the News has changed on their webpage but since a Facebook Wall post can’t be edited, it remains there for all to see. Jeesh.

    • 1.3
      Jane Moline says:

      The Northfield News was handed the Patch petition in printed form by someone wanting the petition to get used. I don’t think this is an attack on Patch by the NN--the use of the same wording is better for everyone.

  • 2
    William Siemers says:

    The petition says:
    “It is understood that all business pertaining to the post office would move to the carrier annex at the south end of Northfield, leaving downtown with no postal services.”
    Just a little over the top…since ‘postal services’ are available downtown now outside of the post office, and will continue to be whether the post office relocates or not.

  • 3

    I thought the common goal was to fight to save the post office, not beat on each other. If we shift our focus away from this important topic to the routine infighting, we will be wasting our energies.

    I agree that the Northfield News needs to continue to grow in this new internet medium, and they are trying… but right now is not the time or place for this battle.

    Griff, I urge you and Corey to perhaps schedule a meeting at the News, and figure out how everyone can use their resources for the common good instead of battling for market share.

    • 3.1
      Griff Wigley says:

      John, I think the perfect time to point out misbehavior is when it occurs. Few will care a week from now.

      Plus, this is not really an issue of the Northfield News struggling to “grow in this new internet medium.” It’s an integrity issue.

  • 4
    Jane Moline says:

    I agree with John Thomas. The goal is to save the post office--everybody should pitch in. For once, the News is on the right side--don’t look for trouble.

    • 4.1
      Griff Wigley says:

      Jane, if the News really wanted people to sign their online petition, they would link to it from their home page and their news page, encouraging people to sign it.

      Saying they’re “on the right side” sounds like you’re saying that the end justifies the means.

  • 5
    David Koenig says:

    Based on what I see here, I’m going to agree with Griff on this one. While it doesn’t seem to be the same as copying original reporting without attribution, it has an unseemly feel to it.

    If we are all in this together, we should respect and acknowledge when leadership is shown, not try to grab the same mantle.

    It would be simple for the NN to link to Patch. Or, if unwilling to do so because of competitive pressures or internal policies, just mention who people should contact at the USPS.

    And I also agree with Griff that the best time to address an issue is right away. Even if the end is good, it doesn’t justify inappropriate means.

  • 6
    David Koenig says:

    Yes….perfect for a NN expose’ :

    Locally Grown Blogger Caught Falsifying Data --Veracity of Blogosphere Called into Question — Print Media Only Remaining Source of Truth

  • 7
    Kathie Galotti says:

    Ok David and Griff: Play nice or I’ll have to separate you.

  • 8
    Steph Henriksen says:

    Griff,

    I should confess I stopped in at NNews Tuesday on another matter and ended up thanking Suzie Rook for the coverage on the Post Office. I said she might consider running a survey question, though time was almost out. I didn’t think about stealing anyone’s thunder on this, just the urgency of it.

    PATCH was where the real strategy was developing with Corey Butler’s help and then Jeff Webster. A Council member asked last week that I start up a “save our post office” petition, but I couldn’t accomplish this on my own along with Motokazie hearing coming April 7. It was suggested to me that the Bank Museum might keep one at the desk but, as of today, Scott Richardson had not given permission.

    • 8.1
      Tim Hanson says:

      There is a reason the Northfield News is known as the Northfield Rag in town. They write only what they care to write about and are less then objective. In my opinion they do not have the best interest of this town in mind. People like Suzy Rook write and have opinions as long as it is something she supports personally. Its really disappointing to see this kind of journalism -- if you can even call it that.

  • 9
    Ross Currier says:

    Griff --

    This is so Northfieldesque.

    We’re facing the loss of a major community asset, folks are quickly coming together in an effort to do something, an old and a new media organization joins the effort…and we put our energy into trying to find a fight. Let it be noted that once again I side with John Thomas on an issue.

    Look, I’m not a huge petition guy. I understand that they are essential for some matters but I’ve been putting my energy into trying to get 20,007 people to WRITE LETTERS.

    However, I’ve been advised to push the petition too. In fact, I got a phone call this morning on which somebody chewed me for about twenty minutes because the NDDC “wasn’t doing enough to support the petition drive”. Okeh.

    According to people I view as “experts” on this subject, we need as many petition places as possible. The Used A Bit Shop is already collecting signatures. The Northfield News has offered to make their lobby available for a petition. I’ve heard that the Arts Guild is willing serve as a site, and I’ve been instructed to ask at the Public Library and Goodbye Blue Monday too.

    How about the Northfield Historical Society? Maybe give their board president, Scott Richardson, a call.

    Hey, Victor Summa had considerable petitioning success focusing on the bars, taverns and pubs…Joe, Norman, Chuck? Yo Councilor, maybe we should see if we could have one at the Municipal Liquor Store too.

    If the “experts” are right, we need all the “sites”, brick and mortar…or pixels, that we can get to try to gather as many signatures as possible. So, I guess I’d say “thank you” to the Used A Bit Shop and (maybe) the Arts Guild and the Northfield Patch and the Northfield News and urge people to drop in, sign a petition, and repeat the “thank you”.

    Now for the commercial break: the NDDC is using the monthly Downtown Forum to discuss this issue. That’s next Tuesday, April 5th, 8 a.m., in the Riverview Conference Room of the historic Archer House. We’ll have some petitions available then too.

    …and did I mention that local residents are urged to send letters to the following key officers of the USPS officers to appeal this potential decision? Here are the names and addresses:

    Patrick Donahoe, Post Master General and CEO
    United States Postal Service
    475 L’Enfant Plaza, S.W.
    Washington, DC 20260

    AND

    Anthony Williams, Regional District Manager
    Northland District
    United States Postal Service
    100 First Street
    Minneapolis, MN 55401-9990

    Thanks much.

  • 10
    Jane McWilliams says:

    Well said, John and Ross.

  • 11
    David Koenig says:

    Not trying to be too cute here, but I would say ‘thank you’ to John, Ross and Griff. All three are correct.

  • 12
    Griff Wigley says:

    So far, there’s no “Sign the post office petition here” promo on the home page of any of these websites:

    * Northfield News
    * KYMN
    * Northfield.org
    * NDDC
    * City of Northfield
    * League of Women Voters of Northfield

    See, I’m doing my part to be helpful. ;-)

  • 13
    kiffi summa says:

    Ross: you are of course correct that infighting is not the most productive position at a time when we face losing our important post office…
    However…
    After reading my NFNews this morning, and finding the text under the back page picture, the text where places for petitions to be signed are noted, I will have to agree with Griff that the NFNews once again falls down on the ‘job’ for the reasons Griff has stated.

    The online petition at PATCH is not mentioned, although it started previous to the News’s petition and has gained a number of statements as well as signatures… but the fact that there is a petition at the Used-a-Bit Shop is noted.

    If this paper, situated in the Downtown, puts its rivalry with another news source before the goal of obtaining as many signatures as possible on ALL available petitions, then I think they deserve to be called out on the issue.

  • 14
    Jane McWilliams says:

    Now there’s a story Betsey Buckheit posted earlier (but which was pushed down by subsequent stories), complete with link to Patch’s petition on the front page of Northfield.org.

    We’re all doing our best to be helpful, Griff!

  • 15
    Griff Wigley says:

    The Northfield News has deleted (without comment/explanation) the reference/link to this blog post from their Facebook Wall.

    And they have made further edits (without comment/explanation) the text of their online petition.

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