A Newspaper Stole My Last Idea and Assigned It to Someone Else! What Can I Do?

A Newspaper Stole My Last Idea and Assigned It to Someone Else! What Can I Do?

Dear Angela,

Recently I submitted a 1,400-word interview to a local newspaper after confirming that the editor would like to see it. I did not hear back from them for six weeks, and sent a polite e-mail last week asking if he still wanted to use the story. I received no reply.

Today, a story ran about the same person, written by someone else – and nicely done I might add. It seems that this editor might have let me know that he could not use my article. I’ve certainly had others turned down. I did have another market but since the story might not appear until next year, I felt it would be timely and appropriate to run it in a local paper.

Anyhow, I’d like your opinion – I’ve worked for other newspapers but not sure I’d like to submit more work to this one. Am I wrong to have expected some correspondence from this editor – and it was my idea!

Thanks for listening!

Warm regards,

Hi Florence,

It’s possible the editor liked your idea so much that he/she assigned the article to one of their reporters. And, to make it look like the idea wasn’t stolen, perhaps he/she then ignored all your correspondence, pretending they never saw it.

Unfortunately, what he did was entirely legal (though, in my opinion, not at all ethical).

I would definitely not pitch to that paper again. You obviously generate great ideas. Share your talents with more ethical and appreciative publications.



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4 Responses to "A Newspaper Stole My Last Idea and Assigned It to Someone Else! What Can I Do?"

  1. Charlie Self  November 12, 2015 at 5:50 am

    I’ve been a freelancer since 1968: this kind of thing is infrequent in the print magazine publishing industry, or was, but there are variations on the theme. In nearly 50 years, I believe I’ve written two, possibly three, newspaper articles. I just wasn’t possible to make any decent money doing so.

    Otherwise, I had one magazine, now long defunct, assign a series of articles, pay for the first two and steal the last three. I fell for a “Gotta have so I can push the buttons for publicity” nonsense and submitted the last three together. Recently, I had a local magazine assign an article on a subject that was fun to do, but a lot of travel (few hundred miles), with expenses paid. The expense check arrived, but he had a similar story done by someone else that he published. It wasn’t my first work for him, and I kind of liked the guy, but he also quit responding.

    There’s really nothing you can do about thieves–the second guy wasn’t a thief, just lacked ethics–except spit whenever you hear their names and never, ever consider working for them. I regret losing the regional magazine as a client, because I’d lined up a year’s worth of ideas I knew he’d bite on, but I never found out what the problem was, nor why he hadn’t asked me to make corrections. I do think it had something to do with prices and promises. He promised more than his budget would bear, in other words, so I got clipped out of a few days work and maybe $1500.

  2. Tamara  November 11, 2015 at 2:08 pm

    Yes, could this be content covered in a website like Preditors & Editors or some such? Seems like using the web to call out these concerns might help keep unscrupulous content thieves away.

  3. Karin Gall  November 11, 2015 at 1:12 pm

    I’ve had that happen in the past. I exchanged a humor column with someone who wrote for a newspaper in the southwest. She didn’t steal it word for word but she did write a column based on my idea, and it was pretty close to what I had written. I was flattered that someone who wrote for a big newspaper liked my idea enough to steal it, but miffed that it was stolen from the private editing exchange group that I belonged to. Since that incident, I never share any work or ideas that I intend to publish via the Internet. I have someone in my family that also writes, and she helps edit my work. Later, I did get the piece published by a magazine in Canada. I’m sorry for your experience. As a rule, I don’t send my work to newspapers. As a former stringer, I know how desperate they are for good ideas.

  4. darkheartedwomen  November 11, 2015 at 12:27 pm

    Maybe we should know what newspaper and editor that was, so no one else has that happen.