“We provide 100 percent original reporting…”

That’s what sent me over the edge. Original reporting?! 100 percent original?! My sweet, fat, white … Right, this is a family paper. Let me start again.

Last week, a coworker came across a “news” website — and I use quote marks because while it did contain articles, many of them belonged to the VCNB including the feature about Robert Auge and his amazing veggies, a sports piece about youth soccer, the sentencing of a man who killed two brothers in 2018 and even recent letters to the editor.

Julia M. Dendinger

Finding our work, our words, on a website for this other “publication” made me furious. Instead of having someone’s name, the articles claimed to be by “Press release submission.”

I’m sorry but our original content, my original content, is in no way, shape or form a press release. These articles were published without our permission or knowledge, just straight up stolen. At the end of the posts are links back to the News-Bulletin site, but by then you’ve already read the entire article, so what’s the point?

This kind of website is known as a “pink slime” news site, named for the questionable mechanical meat of the same moniker — something that exists but is of dubious origin. Pink slime sites are typically established to push partisan politics, but this site seemed geared to simply thieving from our website.

“We provide 100 percent original reporting …” Not even close.

I refuse to give this bogus site any air, so I’m not going to name it, but I was completely unsurprised to find when I clicked on the ‘About Us’ link, the site belonged to Metric Media LLC.

According to a 2021 Columbia Journalism Review article, Metric Media has a network of more than 1,200 “local news” sites across the country. I use the quotes again because most of these sites bill themselves as saviors of local news, filling the gap as it were, in communities devoid of local news outlets.

Hi. Hello. Local news outlet, right here. No void to fill. We got this.

According to the site, Metric Media publishes under a licensing agreement with the Metric Media Foundation, a non-profit news content provider, and all the content “published” by this foundation is available free-of-charge to other news publications.

So, yeah, the content they steal from us is available for free to other publications.

They also have the unmitigated gall to put a “donate” button next to every “article” asking for support of the foundation’s mission to “restore community-based news.” Little red donate button, right there, right next to the story my editor wrote about the changes to Belen’s Christmas parade and celebration. Yep … asking for your support to restore community-based news using the news they stole from a community paper. Classy.

I’ve had to take a lot of deep breaths while writing this and deleted a lot of profanity-laden paragraphs. This thing that I do, reporting the news and putting out information for my community, it’s important to me. I also feel pretty confident it’s important to you guys, too.

Maybe it isn’t though. I’ve had this discussion numerous times with people, both here in Valencia County and elsewhere. Don’t steal our work, I’ve pleaded, or any other news outlets.

I’ve been told, quite literally, they don’t give a (explicative) about news organizations. Obviously. Which is interesting because we are apparently valuable enough to steal from but not valued enough to support.

The more people steal our content and put it out there, especially without attribution to and linking back to us, the fewer eyes are on our page.

Much as the curmudgeonly reporter in me hates it, clicks are important. If no one is reading our articles, then why are we getting paid? Trust me, that’s math our money people probably do more regularly than I care to imagine.

The fact people have so little regard for the thing I put my heart and soul into every day hurts. I’ll be very honest about that. But among my anger and ire, there is sometimes a sliver of goodness that makes me smile, restores my determination to keep doing this.

Last week, an envelope arrived at the News-Bulletin office. Inside was a handwritten note and a single dollar bill. A woman had visited the office to buy five back issues, but only had $4. We’re not monsters, so $4 for five papers seemed like a fair deal.

She mailed us the dollar she owed. It won’t get you a cup of coffee these days, but that little green piece of paper made all of us feel valued and supported. So, we live to write another day.

What’s your Reaction?

Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.