Monday, November 15, 2010

Fallout From the Cooks Source Debacle

By now, you've probably heard the plagiarism hullabaloo over Cooks Source [Ouch! Where's the apostrophe?] magazine, which broke on the Internet twelve days ago.

If you haven't, here's a summary: A food writer, Monica Gaudio, wrote a post on her blog at Live Journal here on November 3. She explained that a friend had pointed out that an article Monica had written in 2005 (see here) was reprinted in the October, 2010 issue of Cooks Source [Damn, I really want to insert that apostrophe], a New England magazine supported by paid advertising, with attribution but without informing her or offering reimbursement.

Assuming an error had been made, Monica both phoned and emailed the magazine, asking for an apology online and in print and a donation to the Columbia School of Journalism.

This is where it gets crazy.

The editor of Cooks Source [I need to quit being so freaking obsessive], a woman named Judith Griggs, responded to Monica who posted an excerpt of the reply on her blog:
"Yes Monica, I have been doing this for 3 decades ... 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!"
[Shakes head sadly]

And the rest is history. With the help of bloggers Nick Mamatas (nihilistic_kid); John Scalzi (Whatever); and Neil Gaiman, Monica's [Thank God, an apostrophe] story went viral. Twitter had all kinds of hash tags with the best comments at #buthonestlymonica and #cookssource.]

The Smart Bitches recommended here that the Internet Google bomb Griggs by redefining "griggs" as someone who plagiarizes.

As of this morning, the Cooks Source's [Are you happy now?] Facebook page here has 6,037 comments and Judith Griggs says she has had to shut it down.

Griggs has posted an official comment here where she says her Facebook account was "hacked" and--apparently without intending to be ironic--recommends readers "go to How to Report Claims of Intellectual Property Infringement," to report the abuse.

I'll admit, I was flabbergasted by how vitriolic the Internet response to Griggs became. It was the virtual equivalent of the populace advancing on the Romanian castle with pitchforks and rakes.

The thing that bothered me most was the onslaught's unintended consequences. One of Cooks Source's advertisers, Laura Puchalski
--owner of 2nd Street Baking Co. in Turner Falls, Massachusetts--cancelled her advertising contract with Cooks Source , but posted here how devastating the experience of being bombarded by the Internet was for her small business.

When that Romanian castle got burned down, did anyone make sure all the servants got out safely?

I'm sure all of Cooks Source's [No! No! I'm not satisfied] advertisers were equally inconvenienced and perhaps even harmed by the tsunami of reaction.

Laura's post reminded me of just how powerful a force the Internet is and how destructive it can be if things turn nasty.

I'm going to try to be more responsible in my kneejerk reactions in creating a fuss when I have been inconvenienced. I just deleted a post from this weekend along with a Tweet. My inconvenience is not worth the risk of harming someone else.

Cooks' Source, Cooks' Source, Cooks' Source!

P.S. If you're in or around Turner Falls, please stop by the 2nd Street Bakery Co. and buy something. I've already checked; they don't ship.

1 comment:

Liane Spicer said...

You touch on an issue that has bothered me for years. I've seen bloggers whipped into a vengeful, blood-thirsty, howling mob on the rampage when instigated by popular personalities with real or imagined grievances against someone. It's frightening.

Some people, like that editor, deserve to be called out. It's the veritable "Kill! Kill!" chorus that ensues that gives me pause. So many are just drunk with the power of the new social media.