OPEN: JANUS FILE #0365
In one of Tom Lehrer's songs, there is a line that goes, "Remember why the Good Lord made your eyes, so don't shade your eyes, but plagiarize, plagiarize, PLAGIARIZE!
This was not a sentiment that was welcomed when I was in college. As I may have mentioned once or twice, I have a degree in journalism from Murray State University, and in most of my courses, the opposite was pounded into our skulls. Perhaps even twice as much in my journalism courses, this was pounded into our scholarly brains:PLAGIARISM IS A BAD THING.
I feel quite sure that this holds true for any other institute of higher education you care to name. Which is why something I read yesterday had my jaw dropping faster than Wile E. Coyote's after the Roadrunner had just kicked in the afterburners.
It started when I was reading John Scalzi's blog, the Whatever. His first entry of the day was a tale of what can only be called stupidity above and beyond the call of duty. As a matter of fact, I think the last time I read about something this spectacularly stupid, it was on the website for The Darwin Awards, and there was a fatality involved.
Now, Mr. Scalzi was writing about something he read on the LiveJournal page of a young woman named Monica Gaudio (illadore —
), so I went to her site to get the story straight from the horse's mouth. It started with an article she posted online about apple pie, how it has been around longer than the US Of A, and how recipes for apple pie have evolved. Last week, a friend of Ms. Gaudio's saw the article printed in a magazine called Cooks Source
, and contacted her to say, "Congratulations, and how did you get this published, anyway?"
Ms. Gaudio had no idea what her friend was talking about, but after a few minutes with Google, she found the Cooks Source
website and their Facebook page. And she found her article, which to my understanding was a copy-and-paste job from the article posted at the Gode Cookery website.
Now, at this point, Ms. Gaudio was probably just a little miffed, and she contacted Cooks Source
about the matter. When someone from Cooks Source
asked her what she wanted, she said that she wanted an apology on the Facebook page, a printed apology in the magazine, and for Cooks Source
to make a $130 donation to the Columbia School Of Journalism -- roughly, 10 cents per word for her article.
I am copying the response from Cooks Source
directly from Ms. Gaudio's entry, because I want to get this correct. Seeing as how several news outlets have done the same, I don't think she will be too angry:
"Yes Monica, I have been doing this for 3 decades, having been an editor at The Voice, Housitonic Home and Connecticut Woman Magazine. I do know about copyright laws. It was "my bad" indeed, and, as the magazine is put together in long sessions, tired eyes and minds somethings forget to do these things.
But honestly Monica, the web is considered "public domain" and you should be happy we just didn't "lift" your whole article and put someone else's name on it! It happens a lot, clearly more than you are aware of, especially on college campuses, and the workplace. If you took offence and are unhappy, I am sorry, but you as a professional should know that the article we used written by you was in very bad need of editing, and is much better now than was originally. Now it will work well for your portfolio. For that reason, I have a bit of a difficult time with your requests for monetary gain, albeit for such a fine (and very wealthy!) institution. We put some time into rewrites, you should compensate me! I never charge young writers for advice or rewriting poorly written pieces, and have many who write for me... ALWAYS for free!"
(At this point, I should state that I have seen the article at Gode Cookery, and I feel certain that the "rewrites" were because Ms. Gaudio was quoting a number of medieval sources in the article. Quoted them precisely, retaining the medieval spelling. Do I really have to mention spelling has changed just a bit over the intervening centuries?)
Seriously? How could anyone be in journalism for 30 years and not have the slightest understanding of copyright law, the definition of plagiarism, and journalistic ethics? If I were to travel back in time to when I was in college, and present this to my Intro To Journalism course, I'm pretty certain that everyone in the class would have said, "What the hell was this editor thinking?" And don't get me started on what my professors would have said. "Scathing" would be far too mild a description of their comments.
She may have been miffed before, but now, she was seriously pissed off. (The phrase she used was "mad as hell.") She wrote about what had happened on her LiveJournal page, and was wondering what she should do next.
A funny thing then happened. The Internet got involved.
As I mentioned, John Scalzi wrote about it on his blog. Neil Gaiman and Wil Wheaton wrote about it on Twitter. Several mainstream media sources posted articles about it, including CNN, The Los Angeles Times
, The Washington Post
, The Wall Street Journal
, and The Guardian
. And these are just the media outlets that I quickly found with a Google search.
As the story spread, more people read it, and "outrage" doesn't begin to describe the response. Those who read the story decided that Something Had To Be Done. And indeed, Something Was Done.
People started bombarding the Cooks Source
website and Facebook page, making their displeasure known. I didn't read all the comments (At this point, I don't think it's possible), but some of the ones I was able read are some of the most vitriolic remarks I can remember seeing.
Someone on Facebook also started thinking -- Had Cooks Source
engaged in acts of plagiarism besides this one? They started checking, and to make a long story short, the answer is yes. Oh, Zarquon, has Cooks Source
engaged in acts of plagiarism! There's now a page on Facebook where people are documenting the magazine's history of plagiarism. Some of the sources from which Cooks Source
has "lifted" articles (always writing for FREE!) include Martha Stewart, Paula Deen, the Food Network, and Disney. These entities were, until now, unaware of the plagiarism. That has changed.
I think the lawyers are about to get involved.
This isn't going to be pretty.
All because one editor was totally lacking in journalistic ethics, completely clueless as to what constitutes public domain, and arrogant enough to think she didn't have to pay when called on it.
I can think of only one way to end this entry. I'm sure that somebody somewhere has already used this riff on the old Master Card commercials -- probably multiple somebodies -- but this is the perfect fit:
Donation to Columbia School Of Journalism -- $130. Not becoming the laughingstock of the Internet -- PRICELESS.
CLOSE: JANUS FILE #0365