This morning TMZ picked up details about Debbie Rowe's visit to Forest Lawn Glendale yesterday from a thread started by Jessicathx on the Michael Jackson Hoax Death website. The thread began with a re-posted eyewitness account written by Erin Jacobs from another forum and subsequently included two photos from Facebook.
One of the photos was mine, a mobile upload posted yesterday afternoon to my own FB. It has since been removed from my FB, replaced instead with other watermarked photos and disclaimers in the follow up story I posted last night to my blog, on Twitter and FB -- before any mainstream media had it. In any case, Jessica noted on the thread that she found the photos on a FB group but didn't provide a link to her source.
As a result, TMZ sourced the story and photos to MJHD. Since I worked into the wee hours of the morning, I pretty much slept through shit hitting the fan at daybreak. Thankfully, Erin took the lead and immediately alerted TMZ to the origin of the materials. Once she did, three different TMZ staff members contacted me in an effort to make things right:
This is not just a case of giving credit where credit is due, although admittedly that's an important element.
This was also important to pursue because TMZ readers were being re-directed to speculation on a chat board written by people who weren't there, rather than to a primary source written and photographed by someone who was. An incorrect credit link just wasn't helpful in telling the story, nor did it do Debbie justice.
A lot of people have expressed various opinions on today's events and overall accountability in reporting. Here's my bottom line:
I have nothing against MJHD and think it was a case of all-around improper netiquette, not malice. I find their site to be interesting, despite the fact that I believe Michael is, sadly, dead. But overall, I don't mind people using my images, as long as linkbacks are provided. Unfortunately, that doesn't always happen so I've had to resort to watermarking newsworthy images.
Since this all happened, The Insider has posted pap coverage of Debbie's time at Forest Lawn yesterday. Their materials were licensed by Splash. People have asked if I sold any of my images. I did not, although I was contacted by Splash and other agencies with offers, all of which were declined.
Thank you to Debbie Rowe for being you, Erin and the gang at Justice4MJ who helped this morning, as well as everyone at TMZ for your prompt professionalism.