After consulting with “several” lawyers, Parlato told CJR that the photos, which he found “on the Internet,” constitute “fair use,” pointing out that sites such as Yahoo and Romenesko have used photos of Parlato that were “lifted” from his site (it should be noted that Yahoo credited the photo). “It seems strange to hold struggling print media to a higher standard than Yahoo,” Parlato says. “Maybe us print people have to, to some extent, take the gloves off and compete toe-to-toe with the Internet.” (Incidentally, several prominent sites have been sued for copyright infringement over the years for posting copyrighted photos: Buzzfeed, PerezHilton, and BleacherReport, to name a few. Just because a lot of websites use photos without paying the copyright holder for them or crediting the source doesn’t mean it’s not legally actionable.)

And Parlato continues to “lift” photos off the Internet, even using the fact that a picture was created by someone else as a defense in the Reporter’s current editorial, in response to accusations that the paper was making fun of children with Down syndrome in a photo published as “humor.”

“The Niagara Falls Reporter published a picture last week that was originally posted on an internet site,” Parlato wrote. “It was a mock KFC ad for their ‘Double Down’ sandwich. We did not create the image.”

But there is some good news: Parlato says he’s doubled the size of his paper since taking over in April, and it’s doing so well that he’s looking to hire three full-time investigative reporters. “Guys — or girls — with real intrepidity,” Parlato says. The additions will be welcome; the Reporter is at its best when it’s trying to do real investigative work. Before Parlato’s time, the Reporter was given a positive mention in the Darts & Laurels section of CJR’s January/February 2007 issue for its role in uncovering some shady ethics between Niagara Falls and the Reporter’s rival paper, Niagara Gazette.

If Fox News has taught us anything, there certainly is a place in journalism today for news presented from a specific point of view. People will watch it and read it; advertisers will pay for it. If Parlato’s brand of journalism is what his public wants, more power to him and his newspaper. It would be nice, though, if Parlato focused less on “publishing that which promotes traditional family values” and more on publishing that which promotes good journalistic ethics.

 

Sara Morrison is a former assistant editor at CJR. Follow her on Twitter @saramorrison.