What I Learned From John Lennon’s Death: Part One

imagine mural from Sierra Tierra's Flickr page

I can’t remember how I heard about the death of John Lennon – but on December 9, 1981, I learned that the famed Beatle had been assassinated the previous evening in front of his New York City apartment building.

People were moved in different ways upon hearing this shocking news. Some trekked to the Dakota to be close to where Lennon took his last steps;  thousands of people went to their local record store to buy Beatles and Lennon solo albums; a few, overwhelmed with grief, took their own lives.

At the ripe ol’ age of 11, I did something different. I wrote a small magazine about the event.

I started with the front page article – first the headline, then a hand-drawn image of Lennon, followed by few paragraphs about his life and death. Proud with my work, I showed Page One to my mother.

“Look what I did!”

Silence.

“That’s nice, honey. But if you want to use quotes from Paul McCartney and Yoko Ono, you have to let readers know where those quotes came from.”

Ouch! Hard to believe that Mom was the softie when it came to my writing … but she did teach me an important lesson: You’re entitled to write your opinions, but when you begin stating facts or quoting other people, you best reveal your sources.

This tip from Mom is more important than ever these days. In our online world, tons of content is pushed live without proper attribution. Tons more excuses are made for this sloppy content creation:

*I have to get the news out there first.

*I only have 140 characters.

*I don’t want to mess up my visual presentation with photo credits.

Folks, this is straight up plagiarism. It’s so easy and unobtrusive to give attribution these days. On Facebook, give props to that funny video you saw on your friend’s page with a “via” link.* When you tweet from a conference, quote the speaker or give a hashtag of the conference. When you blog, include hyperlinks to your written and visual sources.

Giving attribution is not only academically correct, it’s *social* — it is, in most cases, giving thanks to someone’s hard work and offering them potential for more exposure.

___

Soon after Lennon’s death, I became consumed with reading everything I could about his extraordinary life. This period revealed another lifelong lesson that I will write about on the Sierra Tierra blog later this month.

*Give me a shout if you thought Via was the new coffee they sell at Starbucks. I’ll help you with the jargon.

Photo credit: sierratierra

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Right on Lisa.

    It’s so easy to give people the props they deserve. And it actually makes you look more reputable for doing so.

    Seems like your mom gave you a great lesson.

    Reply

  2. Posted by sierratierra on December 16, 2010 at 10:52 am

    Thanks, Dave. You bring up a good point about how citations can increase our credibility — another bonus for doing the right thing!

    Reply

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