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Gini Dietrich

Holy Crap, Cooks Source!

By: Gini Dietrich | November 9, 2010 | 
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Holy crap, Cooks Source! What the heck are you thinking?! By now you’ve probably heard that the magazine is in a whole lot of hot water.

Monica Gaudio wrote a piece about the origins of apple pie on a website for medieval recipes. She was alerted by a friend that the piece had run in Cooks Source with her byline (the friend just had the intention of wondering how she got published). This was news to Monica and she contacted the magazine to complain and ask for an apology and a $130 donation to the Columbia Journalism School. She received an email from managing editor, Judith Griggs, who acknowledged the re-use, but also lectured her about copyright and fair use.

I can’t do the response justice – this you just have to read verbatim.

“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!”

Now, I’m not a copyright attorney and I don’t know if it’s not illegal to “lift” an article and “put someone else’s name on it,” but I’m pretty sure it’s a big no-no. Nor have I ever been a big-time editor, but I also am pretty sure it’s still copyright infringement, even if you had to rewrite something you stole (in college, this was referred to as plagiarism). I also don’t get how she can lecture someone, whose copy she stole, about providing advice or rewriting poorly written pieces. Remember, she STOLE the piece…so Monica didn’t ask for advice or provide something that was poorly written for the magazine to use.

Regardless of how I feel about this (and I’d be surprised if you didn’t feel the same), the reason I heard about it is because people flocked to the Cooks Source Facebook wall to talk about how ridiculous the magazine is being in its dealings with Monica (some of it is pretty funny). It has exploded and, in fact, some of the “fans” have found other instances where Cooks Source has stolen content.

This is a business leader’s worst nightmare. I hear all the time, “What happens if someone says something negative about us online?” Guess what? It’s going to happen. So the best advice is to be prepared for a social crisis and negative comments. Cooks Source was not prepared, but they commented about 24 hours later. The “apology” was shallow, condescending to its “fans,” and praised the fact that they went from 110 “likes” to more than 1,800 (at the time – it’s now more than 6,000).

This is the kiss of death. People can tell if you’re being insincere, even online. Authenticity, honesty, and transparency are the name of the game, which is something Judith Griggs and the people at Cooks Source haven’t figured out.

If you were advising Griggs and her team, what would you say?

P.S. The best part? Griggs, over the weekend, deleted her personal Facebook page. Ever heard of making things worse?

Thanks to Erik Heels for the awesome drawing on copyrights

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

75 comments
Marijean
Marijean

There's a very interesting statement now up on the Cooks Source website.

karlkoelle
karlkoelle

It is truly amazing to watch someone completely fail at social media. You could make the case that they aren't a major publication so they don't have the same resources to help them make amends. However, seeing as they apparently make quite a habit out of stealing content they should be much better at covering their tracks...
The only plan to save the magazine appears to be a serious culling of staff, starting with Ms. Griggs. I don't see a way she keeps a job, and most of the staff probably needs to go with her to "remove the culture" that is apparently in place.
As was stated, Ms. Gaudio was willing to let it go with an apology and a small donation. Disney will bury these people. Hopefully when they are done there is enough of a marker left to remind future editors of what happens in the modern world when you ignore the rules.

I see this being a benchmark in many a college journalism ethics course in the very near future.

Brigitte
Brigitte

On the editing note..The recipe was published using the language and spellings from the Middle Ages, so it was correct as presented.

aakomas
aakomas

First I would say, if you're advising someone on "badly/un-edited" written piece, you may start by proof-reading your email and re-editing it. Secondly, I've been taught in a few of my Journalism classes that lifting online contents without prior approval/consent of the owner will land one in copyright hot-mess.

DonnaPapacosta
DonnaPapacosta

I agree that the editor is clueless, the writer was treated badly, and the apology was hollow. However, let's keep in mind that Cooks Source is a very small regional publication. I doubt they have a PR team or even a crisis policy. After all, they can't even afford an apostrophe.

ryanknapp
ryanknapp

#epicfail.

Nothing else really to say!

ryanknapp
ryanknapp

#epicfail.

Nothing else really to say!

barryrsilver
barryrsilver

The temerity of the offender to blame the victim. Good to hear the editor is being called out. My advice: a 180 degree reversal and a full apology (not the "If anyone was offended, blah, blah, blah"), a donation to Columbia over $130 (petulant in e-space for $130?) and offer Monica a one-time guest spot in the mag. True contrition can save this, anything less will leave a stain.

MolliMegasko
MolliMegasko

Thanks for making me unproductive! This Facebook wall is cracking me up!

Jenna_Cerruti
Jenna_Cerruti

This is just awful! Awful approach, awful response. The e-mail response is especially surprising because Gaudio is an active BLOGGER. Cook's Source should have at least done its research before trying to fly under the radar after the angry e-mail. It's unfortunate because I read that Cook's Source has a nice, wholesome mission to support local, sustainable culinary practices and food. But Cook's Source is making bad moves right and left: The public e-mail, deleted Facebook page and website, and no public apology. I think Griggs needs to act SOON if she wants to recover her magazine, explaining all past infringements and announcing big time changes to its copyright use that are detailed and public to readers.

delwilliams
delwilliams

It is copyright infringement, and if she was a "big time" editor she would know that. Info on the web is NOT considered public domain, it's just public. There is a difference. If you go by her stand then a song that was just released today online would be public domain, and we know that is not true. She is a thief, but sadly she is a dime a dozen. Online, people do steal people's stuff and claim as their own. It is plagiarism gone wild. It seems the only way to deal with someone like that is in the court system. It seems she stole items from some major outlets, so I think think that will happen really soon. Thing is, has someone dealt with the publisher? Editor is an employee, so it's time to go straight to the top.

lgdrew
lgdrew

Rather than asking for an apology and a donation, perhaps Monica could have accepted that Griggs stole her work...knowing your work is worth stealing is a compliment...right? Requesting for credit seems like the best option.

Griggs handled this shamefully though. There's no excuse for theft/copyright infringement. And worse, her "polishing" of the article.

Thanks for posting Gini.

Katjaib
Katjaib

Judith Griggs seems to have a gift for adding insult to injury. Poor thing.

Her first response to Monica was basically, "I stole your car, but I washed it... and hey was it dirty." Her 'apology' was like, "So I smashed the car into your house, but look, I made the front page." She in no way inspired Today's Tiny Change, for the record.

p.s. Shelly Kramer's also did a good job of covering this on Sunday, "Swiper, No Swiping! Stealing Content Sucks" (http://bit.ly/afhVlf).

thublogger
thublogger

OMG! This is something horrendous. Copyright gone wrong big time! I don't know how Monica have sent her e-mail but for Judith to respond like that, it's a big slap. However, leave it to the community to vote. This is where the magic of the truth lies. Lessons to learn here.

This is my first time and thanks to Ingrid over at Nitty Gritty, I have found a local professional! Will be checking out the content here more often as I have heaps to learn about marketing now.

Cheers!
Thu

PJWright
PJWright

More fuel to the fire. Went to checkout Cooks Source website. Had trouble finding it but then only one page comes up. Says that the website has been taken down. Implies that the email was penned by a hacker. Further the Facebook page isn't controlled by Cooks Source. More "hacker" excuses. Bottom line: Further lessons in how not to react to bad publicity.

wabbitoid
wabbitoid

There may be a lot less to this than meets the eye, actually.

Are we sure that Cook's Source isn't just something that Griggs puts out entirely, or nearly entirely, by herself? There may not be any kind of "team" behind this other than a few casual contributors and hangers-on.

Sushi
Sushi

I'm amazed at the poor language in Judith's "apology". Isn't she the managing editor of Cooks Source? That sounds like a position that demands excellent communication skills.

PattiRoseKnight
PattiRoseKnight

Even if Ms. Griggs apologizes publically now it is obvious (to me anyway) that she won't be sincere. The damage has already been done and what can be taken away from is to always have a crisis plan in place - ALWAYS!

PattiRoseKnight
PattiRoseKnight

Even if Ms. Griggs apologizes publically now it is obvious (to me anyway) that she won't be sincere. The damage has already been done and what can be taken away from is to always have a crisis plan in place - ALWAYS!

fionabell
fionabell

Wow, thank you for sharing. Laziness + arrogance = disaster every time.

PJWright
PJWright

Unbelievable!! This editor has obviously never heard of SOCIAL Media. She seems to believe that business is still a one way street and she is the gatekeeper. (Let's not even discuss how poorly edited her response was.) Cooks Source is gong to be feeling the pain for a long time to come.

TweetsbyKnorr
TweetsbyKnorr

I agree strongly with the T60Productions advice on writing a public apology, and I would deliver this after a private apology. and ask Monica Gaudio where she wants the Griggs sponsored class in online ethics hosted.

TweetsbyKnorr
TweetsbyKnorr

OMG! Advice for Griggs would begin with "get a social life.... and secondly to get out of her time warp ("beam me up Scottie"). The thought of not asking for permission and offering compensation shows she is shallower than the water used to poach an egg. I would recommend a positive approach . . . funding journalism and social media writers schools and create an education course on Ethics On Line. The first student has identified herself.

T60Productions
T60Productions

That's stunning. I've been a journalist at everything from a local newspaper to a national TV newscast and I can't imagine having an editor with that kind of attitude.

Here's what my advice would have been...
1. make the donation to Columbia as requested
2. match that by making an additional donation to some sort of young journalists' society
3. write a sincere letter to Monica apologizing and letting her know about the donations, as well as steps being taking at "Cooks Source" so this sort of thing doesn't happen again.

balemar
balemar

What...the...hell? Who is handling their PR?? Geez! First off - where do they get off stealing content then giving such a condescending response? Second - hiding is NOT the way to handle an online crisis. It makes it so much worse. And acting condescending to people - much less Facebook fans - will NOT win anyone over. Even if you had no opinion on the magazine before, you definitely have a negative one now...

SamanthaCollier
SamanthaCollier

I'm completely speechless (for once!) Thanks for posting this Gini. An example of what NOT to do, EVER!