Audit Notes: Waxman Whacks Wolff, Salon Whacks Wolff, Brooks Just Wack

Finally, somebody gets up the nerve to slap a cease-and-desist on Michael Wolff’s parasitic Newser. Sharon Waxman and he have been in a nasty dustup for the past week, and her The Wrap sent Newser a letter saying this:

We demand that Newser, LLC (“Newser”), and any agent or affiliate of Newser, immediately cease and desist using The Wrap as a source for Newser content. Newser is not following industry best practices, is intentionally misleading consumers/users at the expense of The Wrap and at the expense of other unnamed sources, and has effectually demonstrated no intention to allow consumers/users to logically and easily ascertain the source of Newser articles.

Newser’s conduct violates The Wrap’s rights because: (1) The Wrap generates and gathers time-sensitive information at a cost, including, without limitation, original stories ferreted out and reported by The Wrap’s full-time employees and paid contributors; (2) Newser free-rides on The Wrap’s sweat of the brow by publishing summaries of these stories without affording The Wrap appropriate credit and a prominent link; and (3) Newser is in direct competition with The Wrap. Thus, Newser’s conduct, in addition to amounting to garden variety plagiarism, constitutes unfair competition and violates certain deceptive trade practices statutes…

Your staff should think twice about re-writing The Wrap’s stories in the future. While underlying facts are not protectable, The Wrap’s original expression of those facts is protectable. If your people cross that line in the future by appropriating The Wrap’s copyright-protected expression, The Wrap will not hesitate to bring an action against Newser for copyright infringement.

I’ve said before that Newser leaves itself open to lawsuits for ripping off other people’s work. This will probably be settled (with Newser backing down), but it’s one to watch. If it were to happen to go to court it could set precedents for online re-use of others’ expensive-to-make content.

— Don’t know what Newser is? Salon’s Andrew Leonard explained earlier this week:

But what takes Newser beyond countless other similar sites is a truly precious degree of shamelessness. All of the above stories — even the slide shows — are repackaged, rewritten and abbreviated versions of content originated by other publications. When your pursuit of traffic leads you to the point of ripping off a Fox News Lindsay Lohan/Britney slide show, you have stooped so low you can’t even reach up to the lowest common denominator.


On the Web, giving ample credit and linking to sources are essential steps in making this new Internet information ecosystem work for everybody. Newser obscures where the content it is appropriating comes from, adds zero editorial value, and even serves up advertisements when you try to leave the site after clicking on a link in the “source” box to see the original story!

Systematically. Read Leonard’s whole takedown.

Brad DeLong catches David Brooks writing this whopper in his New York Times column:

Over the last 10 years, 60 percent of Americans made more than $100,000 in at least one of those years, and 40 percent had incomes that high for at least three.

Uh, no. That’s correction-worthy, even for a columnist.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum.