Feathered Bastard

Russell Pearce Recall Tussle: KPHO Rips Off Dennis Gilman

Channel 5 ganks footage from Gilman, presents it as its own...

The Gilman video KPHO swiped from...

My colleague, indie videographer Dennis Gilman, founder of the PearceWatch Facebook page, is passionate about the YouTube videos he creates. Though he has a day job, in his off hours, he is essentially the Michael Moore of Phoenix. He spends countless hours going to events, scoring his own footage, researching topics, and editing his own productions. And as you can judge by the end result, he takes great pride in his efforts.

For his work as a citizen journalist, he normally receives zero compensation. Occasionally, he sells stills as a freelancer to New Times, but that's about it. And yet, for my money, I'd put his news sense up against any TV reporter in the Valley, and many in the print realm as well.

Which makes KPHO's blatant ripoff of his video footage from the Republican Legislative District 19 meeting a couple of weeks back so egregious. Channel 5 did not ask for Gilman's permission, though that would have been easy enough, as producers there have his cell phone number. Plus his e-mail ain't hard to find.

Rather, KPHO just took it, and didn't bother to credit him, much less offer to pay him. Would Channel 5 have done this to another corporate news entity? Not likely.

"This is really more about corporate greed and unregulated power," Gilman offered. "The corporate media has done much more damage to Democracy than this little theft. They take what they want, when they want, with no shame or legal repercussions knowing there isn't a damn thing any one person can do about it."

Agreed. The report is also inherently dishonest, as Channel 5 presents the footage of LD19 third vice chair Pat Oldroyd and Jerry Lewis's campaign manager Anson Clarkson as its own. 

It's not, mainly because Gilman and I were the only news hounds in the room that day. If you watch both videos above, you'll see that the camera focuses and jerks in the exact same places. There's no doubt that the footage is his.

Also, the KPHO reporter flubs a detail. She says Clarkson (whom she fails to identify) spoke 30 seconds after Oldroyd. Actually, a handful of pro-Pearce folks spoke before he did. It's a minor point, but it's one she would've gotten right had she been there.

I have never understood why deep-pocket operations like a CBS news affiliate not only will not pay for freelanced video, they normally decline to give credit where credit is due. 

For my part, I always try to give credit where I can and link to other sources. I don't see this as a problem, though I know other news outlets want to "own" every story. I have seen so many TV news stations swipe stories from print media over the years, it's practically SOP. 

When it happens on something I've written, I'm usually just happy to see the story get wider play. But then, I am compensated for my time.

Gilman, however, is not. Which is why this sort of thing annoys me no end. Gilman even told me that if Channel 5's producers had asked to use the video, he would have let them, but he would have asked for a credit. And maybe that's why they never made the phone call. Because they wanted to mislead viewers into thinking it was their own.

This is plain evidence of the unbounded arrogance of the vaunted Fourth Estate, and its general incompetence and laziness. The corporate news often steals with impunity from indie journos instead of having its reporters do their own legwork and investigations.

At least Channel 12's Brahm Resnik had the courtesy recently to call Gilman and ask for permission to use some of the same footage. And he did credit Gilman for the footage.

Interestingly, back in 2009, Gilman posted a broadcast by CBS 5 reporter Morgan Loew to his own YouTube account, HumanLeague002. Gilman didn't try to make the report look like his own. He was praising Channel 5 and wanted people to see it.

He was contacted by a KPHO editor who told him the station was fine with him posting the video, they just wanted him to include a link to its site. Which Gilman did.

So why is a little reciprocity so difficult for the big boys over at CBS 5? Likely because they're loath to admit they were scooped by an indie. 

That's also why I doubt KPHO will correct the situation or do anything differently in the future. At least readers of this blog will know the score.

Note: I should also point out that KPHO is not the first outlet to "borrow" footage from Gilman without his permission. Fox News' Geraldo Rivera did likewise in a 2010 report on Sheriff Joe Arpaio, using video of an immigration rally Gilman had covered. But then, what do you expect from frickin' Fox News? Shame?

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons