Can I use a small part of a real newspaper/online article in fiction?

Hi everyone

I write crime fiction set in my home town, and in my latest novel, a kidnapped woman is left alone in a disused outbuilding of a former mine works, with two local newspapers to read. (The Evening Sentinel)

I would like to use the following paragraph, taken from an online news report about Stoke-on-Trent: the town in which the book is set...

Stoke-on-Trent has become a symbol of left-behind Britain. It is the alleged ‘capital of Brexit’.

Stoke is the victim of a triple economic crisis and a triple identity crisis. Its pottery, steel and coal-mining industries were among the earliest victims of the de-industrialisation of Britain which began under Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s. The city’s public services have been hollowed out by the austerity drive of the past decade. Its town centres, stricken by the collapse of traditional shopping habits, range from the depressed to the derelict.

SOURCE: https://unherd.com/2019/11/stoke-the-city-that-britain-forgot/

And make it so the article is actually in the Evening Sentinel, simply because she has no access to any form of phone or computer.

Huge thanks in advance for any advice.

J.F.Burgess https://www.jfburgess.co.uk/home

  • 1
    What is the purpose of reading the newspapers to the story? And is the newspaper edition something that will be updated (i.e. she gets the most recent edition every day it's published) or are the papers two copies from long past dates (I'm presuming that it's the same paper title, but two different days or two different copies of the same day)? It's best if you write "news stories" yourself. – hszmv Jan 21 '20 at 14:31
  • Yes, it's as you describe - to update a victim of ongoing events in the wider plot. Many thanks for the advice. Much appreciated, hszmv. – Jonathan Burgess Jan 21 '20 at 19:43
  • Yeah, I'd rewrite it so it's your own account for your own fiction. I may even advise you to make it a fictional news source unless it is a paper of record and even then, I wouldn't tie a news story to a PoR too strongly beyond the headline. – hszmv Jan 22 '20 at 13:46

Could you? Possibly, it might count as fair use, but I'm not a lawyer and this isn't a stackexchange for legal advice. If you really want to, ask a real lawyer.

Should you? No, probably not. Using this specific text doesn't seem like it would add anything to your story that you couldn't add by rewriting a similar paragraph in your own words.

If you were writing something set in 2001 New York you might want to quote the NYT headline "U.S. Attacked: Hijacked Jets Destroy Twin Towers And Hit Pentagon In Day Of Terror" and possibly even some of the leader. It's an iconic story that was read by millions and is pretty much etched in their memories, and quoting it might add a sense of reality that making up your own words couldn't. That isn't the case with the article you want to use on Stoke: you would lose nothing by rewriting a similar paragraph in your own words.

  • Huge thanks, Adrian, for taking the time to answer my question. Yes, based on your advice I'm going to re-write it! – Jonathan Burgess Jan 21 '20 at 19:40

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