Publish or Perish…Squid has been anxiously following the issue of short-term rentals on the Peninsula, as Squid admits to earning a little extra scratch by renting out a futon in a corner of the lair for otters traveling on holiday. (Pro tip: You can charge them extra because in addition to being super cute, and benefiting financially from said cuteness, they’re also total slobs and tend to wreck the place before they leave.)
Squid was especially interested in a story that ran Sept. 23 in the Monterey Herald titled “One Pacific Grove short-term rental case is settled,” written by Dennis L. Taylor about the settling of a case brought by a group of short-term rental owners called STRONGpg. The group sued the city, but then offered to settle and drop the suit, a move P.G. City Council approved in closed session on Sept. 19. (Fear not—there’s another neighbor lawsuit against Pacific Grove, and STRONGpg dropped theirs in the interest of expediency as that other suit moves forward, not because they had a sudden come-to-Jesus moment about neighborhood character and how short-term rentals tend to destroy it.)
P.G. gadfly extraordinaire Luke Coletti was apparently interested in Taylor’s story too, and sent it out to some folks via email—including Marge Ann Jameson, publisher of the Cedar Street Times.
Who then proceeded to run it in her paper, under Coletti’s byline.
Chaos ensued, as it tends to do when one publisher violates another publisher’s copyright. Coletti sent out an email, and copied some of Squid’s colleagues on it, with the subject line: “Cedar Street Times pirates Herald story and fraudulently lists me as author.” Now, Squid’s no attorney, but putting “pirates” and “fraudulently” in an email subject line sure sound like fighting words—and fight they did. Coletti demanded a retraction “recognizing blatant copyright infringement and fraudulent use of my name,” and Jameson came back over the top of Coletti, responding, “Wrong. You sent me the story with no indication that you hadn't written it. There was no byline, merely a listing, I'm used to this kind of rubbish from you. No reaction will be forthcoming.”
It seemed the two were at a standoff when, on the afternoon of Sept. 29, Jameson sent out a lengthy email explaining what had happened and what they would be running in the paper. An apology, Squid marveled.
Go get a snack. Jameson’s explanation is a long one, you’ll need your strength to get through it.
“In a recent issue of Cedar Street Times, we printed a short story about the results of the civil case concerning Short Term Rentals and the City of Pacific Grove. The story had been sent to us, embedded in an email, by Luke Coletti, a reader who was embroiled in the controversy around STRs. Grateful for the story, we copied it out of the email and printed it, giving Coletti a byline. Often, in this atmosphere of falling ad sales, we are unable to give more than a byline to people who send us stories and pictures. Usually it is enough and we had no reason to offer more or question Coletti's motives. We had been following the STR controversy for months. We have printed Coletti's opinion a number of times and, if I recall correctly, short stories about the suit. We actually had to ask him not to phone any more, because he was calling me late at night on my cell phone. Coletti gave us no indication that he had not written this story, nor that it had been previously published by the Monterey County Herald…
"I personally have been in the journalism field since 1982. I am well aware of the issue of copyright infringement. In fact, we have been apprised of a few times when other newspapers copied stories of ours, either in part or as a whole, but the cost of pursuing the matter for no expected result other than preserving our honor prevented us from pursuing it.”
And that’s just the explanation to those copied on the email, who include Herald Managing Editor Dave Kellogg, Publisher Gary “Darth” Omernick and Carmel Pine Cone Publisher Paul Miller, among a few others.
And under the line, “What we will print this week,” there’s more sniping at Coletti, and no apology to either Taylor or the Herald for the major—if inadvertent—thieving of Herald content.
“In a recent issue of Cedar Street Times, we printed a short story about the results of the civil case concerning Short Term Rentals and the City of Pacific Grove. The story had been sent to us, embedded in an email, by Luke Coletti, a reader embroiled in the controversy around STRs.
"Grateful for the story, we copied it out of the email and printed it, giving Coletti a byline…
"We regret having trusted Luke Coletti and that we innocently published a copyrighted story. We would not have purposefully done so, but we wish to keep our readers informed. We will make every effort to ensure that it does not happen again.”
Squid isn’t sure what prompted Jameson’s pseudo change of heart. Did Darth Omernick threaten to sic the Herald’s attorneys on her? Since they’re saving so much money by not having any photographers on staff, maybe they have money to litigate—Squid’s colleague reached out to Kellogg for the dish, and Kellogg forwarded the request for intel to Omernick, so Squid’s not holding Squid’s breath for a response.
Or maybe someone with common sense laid out the case for Jameson that the blatant copyright violation is a lawsuit the Cedar Street Times would lose? And that, um, it's the expectation a newspaper verify the information it's publishing before publishing it?
In her email, Jameson explains that she’s been going through some medical issues and that her strength and short-term memory are affected by the treatments. And for that, Squid is sorry. (Squid reached out to Jameson, who emailed to say this: "There will be an explanation in our next issue. Last time I needed your (the Weekly's) cooperation, you did not publish my side of the story. I do not have high expectations of your reaction this time.")
In the same way Squid is protecting that futon in the corner of the lair as Squid’s property, Squid understands a newspaper’s need to protect its stories. Squid’s not sure why a simple apology seems so out of reach, but here’s something Squid does know: As bitter as the battle in P.G. has been over short-term rentals, this battle over doing the right thing as a local newspaper has gotten even more feisty.