By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Where does Rupert get his ideas?

After Alan Taylor launched “The Big Picture” on the Boston Globe’s site earlier this year, he told an interviewer, “I know it’s totally copy-able.”

No kidding. Last week, the Wall Street Journal — not exactly known for its photojournalism — started a photo blog that was, well, identical to what has been doing: a blog featuring huge photos of stories in the news and off the news.

The Journal even took the same name, “The Big Picture.” If you go there now, you’ll see that it’s been changed to “Photo Journal.” But I found last week’s version in Google’s cache, and I’ve reproduced it above. And “thebigpicture” remains part of the URL.

It’s a terrific concept: huge photos, mostly from the wires, of the sort that you’re bombarded with every day, but that you probably don’t really notice because they’re too small. “The Big Picture” invites you to look. As Melanie Lidman wrote in the American Journalism Review, “What sets his blog apart is its simplicity. Taylor lets the photos speak for themselves, one at a time, encouraging the viewer to scroll slowly down the page to take in the images.”

The Journal’s act blog thievery did not go unnoticed. Check out some of the comments, which, to the Journal’s credit, have been left intact:

I think it’s sad that a major news outlet like the WSJ lacks the creativity to come up with a blog name that isn’t already in use by another newspaper.

Agreed. If you’re going to lift someone else’s concept the least you can do is come up with an original name for it.

You couldn’t even change the name slightly? How about, “The Large Picture”? A hella-wicked ripoff, I tell ya! LOL!

“The Big Picture” is a great idea, and there’s no reason other news organizations can’t copy it. But for the Journal to steal the entire concept, right down to its name, without so much as a hat tip to the Globe and no original features of its own, seems like a bit much.

At least someone read the comments and changed the name.

Update: In a bit of irony, I discovered late today that I wasn’t the first to report this. See “Credit where it’s due.”

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  1. Marcela

    As the cliché goes, imitation is the purest form of flattery. Alan Taylor and the Globe must feel ecstatic.

  2. edward allen

    THe Boston Globe big picture is a collection of pictures from around the globe, and the WSJ concentrates on one issue. So how are they the same? If the Boston Globe copyrighted the idea, then let them sue for copyright violation. Otherwise it is just a way of presenting interesting photos that tell a story.

  3. O-FISH-L

    Dan, it’s not theft unless the culprit intends to permanently deprive the victim of his property. In this case the WSJ quickly stopped using the rather common phrase / title. Yet you (and the commenters) still feign outrage at the brief lapse by the conservative paper, even accusing it of thievery, a felony in most jurisdictions.Contrast that with ultra-liberal MSNBC taking and permanently depriving fellow ultra-liberal ch.2 of the exclusive use of the far more original moniker, “Beat the Press” and the most I’ve ever seen or heard on this real, old-fashioned larceny is some jovial backslapping and guffawing about it on your Friday night roundtable. Whoever said that the media holds conservatives to a higher standard?

  4. Dan Kennedy

    Fish: Did you know that the Wall Street Journal has been rated as among the most liberal newspapers in the country? I don’t make the mistake of confusing the Journal’s editorial pages with the rest of the paper, and neither should you.This is not “theft” in any legal sense of the term. I’m just saying the Journal would have showed a little class if it had acknowledged where it got the concept.

  5. O-FISH-L

    Pardon me, Dan. After you dragged conservative media mogul Rupert (Murdoch) into your headline, shame on silly me for not realizing you were referring to “the rest of the paper” and not to him at all.Plus, who could quibble with that campus newspaper story that you cited? A study led by a teacher on the same campus. Who cares if the study was performed almost two years before the WSJ was bought by the conservative Murdoch? I’m sure that damn WSJ is as liberal as ever!I know, I know, Murdoch held a fundraiser for Hillary and recently praised Obama, so he’s probably a liberal too.

  6. Adam

    What struck me was not that they copied the idea, but that they did such a crappy job. There are reasons photo editors exist.

  7. Dan Kennedy

    Fish: As I’ve said before, I believe Murdoch will eventually drag the Journal editorial pages closer to the center, because he’s too pragmatic to want to preside over something that nutty. The Weekly Standard is far more influential than the Journal editorial pages. Then again, Bill Kristol is well to the left of Paul Gigot.

  8. askani97

    While it’s not theft, per se, I think the Journal did something equally smart and stupid: The copied a name with a lot of intertubes buzz around it.It seems there isn’t a day that Mr. Taylor’s work on isn’t featured on Digg, io9, gizmodo, slashdot,, etc.They look like jerks for trying to hijack the name, but they created buzz and controversy around this, enough so, that they’re going to get far more eyes on it than if they’d left it to it’s own devices.In a sick kind of way, you can’t help but be impressed.Then again, I’d like nothing more than to dropkick all things Rupert Murdoch.

  9. Izzy Bee

    London’s innovative newspaper, The Independent, had a Big Picture photo feature at least a decade ago, showcasing staff photographers like Brian Harris. It’s about time the yanks cotton onto it.

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