Aussie users of the social media site Reddit have long complained about their content being raided by journalists (hello) and have now decided to fight back by watermarking their uploads.
On the Sydney sub-Reddit, users are overlaying images with phrases like ‘f**k murdoch’ and ‘f**k news.com.au’.
The latter news site, owned by the former media oligarch, has been the target of outrage on Australian sub-Reddits for their lifting of content from social media as well as their coverage of topics the site doesn’t deem to be newsworthy.
Rupert Murdoch, the Australian billionaire, is the owner of many Australian and international publications, including Fox News, whose coverage has been linked to climate denialism amongst other controversial topics.
The trend was started by user 89jase who wrote “can we start water marking all our photos & videos with ‘F**k News.com.au’.
“Honestly, it seems like now days all they do is re-post stuff from Reddit… This might send them a message.”
Since then, multiple images have been uploaded with the pointed watermarks as well as an instructional post from another user on how to easily add the overlay to images.
Others have commented that the watermarks should be added “Very subtly too! So they don’t see it without looking thoroughly,” potentially poisoning the Reddit water hole for news.com.au journalists.
In October, one user baited news.com.au with a fake letter from their strata manager that appeared to demand occupants remove “outdoor furniture, barbecue pits and plant pots in loud colours” from their balconies.
The letter was promptly picked up by news.com.au with the headline “Internet Slams ‘Utterly Bizarre’ Letter.” Other news outlets had fun ripping on the site for falling for the prank.
Still, the incident doesn’t seem to have deterred the publication from continuing to pinch content from Reddit. Perhaps this latest campaign will give them pause for thought.
Why Do Journalists Steal Content from Social Media?
In a word, time.
Most journalists these days are expected to write five stories per day. This is largely due to the industry being absolutely decimated by the invention of the internet at the start of the century, which it never really recovered from.
Veteran journos who remember the glory days of print media will tell you that that number is insane. Only maybe court reporters would have had to do similar back in the day and even then they would have filed copy down the phone line for someone else to type up.
Now, in an endless need to chase clicks and retain advertising dollars, one person is doing the work of what would once have been five or so people. It’s bad for journalists, but it’s also bad for journalism and the high ideals that the industry still tries to hold itself to.
That’s why journalists take content from the internet. It’s easy, ready-made, and, in fairness, where a lot of people spend their time. Reporting on viral trends and happenings is legitimate news, since what happens online affects us all.
That’s not to say it should be happening, or that people aren’t right to be frustrated by it, just that the reasons behind it aren’t simply that we’re all just lazy hacks. We’re time-poor hacks on a deadline and we know you like the internet and the incredible things that happen on it. So do we, that’s why we steal it.