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Cooks Source Disaster – Plagiarism Scandal

November 9, 2010

But honestly, Judith Griggs…..

Talk about an epic fail!

The Cooks Source Magazine Disaster has turned into the biggest and fastest online “pile-on” I’ve ever seen – and it’s still going strong.

The quick rundown of the plot…

  • In 2005 – Monica Gaudio, amateur writer/blogger, posted an article about her experience recreating apple pie recipes from the medieval era (no, I’m not kidding).  The article clearly contained  a copyright notice at the bottom of the page.
  • October 2010 – The Cooks Source Disaster is set in motion when Cooks Source editor, Judith Griggs, gives the thumb’s up to reprint Monica’s original article in the October 2010 Cooks Source Magazine issue – without Monica’s permission or knowledge!  (Psss… Judith, that’s what we call “plagiarism”, a.k.a “stealing”.)
  • October 2010 – Jeff Berry sent an email to his friend, Monica Gaudio.  “As American As Apple Pie – Isn’t!” had been published in Cooks Source Magazine.  “Is this your article?” Jeff asked.  A stunned Gaudio confirmed it was.
  • November 2010 – Emails that you would fully expect ensue between Monica (“Hey, you stole my article!”) and Judith (“Uhhhh, ummm….  I’m not here right now?”).  The back and forth continued a few times, before Judith penned this doozy of an email, launching the Cooks Source Disaster into orbit, at an astonishing pace that I’ve never before seen.

“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…  We put some time into rewrites, you should compensate me!”

Oh, Judith…. no.  You poor, plagiarizing sap – you had no idea what a frenzy you were about to unleash.  (Read the whole outrageous email here.)

Judith’s absurd email response found it’s way online, and spread like wildfire, leading to:

  • Thousands of people posting put-downs and jokes on the Cooks Source Magazine Facebook page.  As we watched it unfold in the afternoon on November 5th, posts were going up faster than every 4 seconds!
  • Judith’s Cooks Source team, being bombarded with Facebook slams, creates a new Facebook page (while leaving the old one active, still racking up the insults).  The new page gets hammered in the same way, at the same rate.  Judith just doesn’t get it.  On the new Cooks Source Facebook page, the Cooks Source team posted (the name has now been changed to “Josh Goldberg” , “Don’t you think that jumping on a band wagon just makes you look lily-livered?” and “I don’t know what some of you think you are going to achieve? We apologized, now go find a rabbit to catch or something”.
  • A full Wikipedia page dedicated to the “Cooks Source infringement controversy” is posted the same day.  As of this post, Wikipedia contains 37 references to articles written about this disaster.
  • The Cooks Source Disaster craze goes into the next stratosphere, as top media outlets worldwide cover the story, including:
    1. CNN
    2. NPR
    3. LA Times
    4. Washington Post
    5. Forbes
    6. Time
    7. New York Times
    8. CNET
    9. Boston Globe
    10. Wired

If all that wasn’t enough, all this media attention has apparently turned up more dirt on Cooks Source, with other reports of alleged plagiarism involving the Food Network and Simply Recipes.  Ouch.

I bet Ms. Griggs is wishing she could have a “do over” on that last email she sent to Monica Gaudio.  Especially when you consider that all Monica requested was for Judith to post a public apology on her Facebook page and make a $130 donation to the Columbia School of Journalism.

The Lesson Learned

Writing unique content is hard work – it takes a lot of time and effort to craft written words that others will find interesting enough to read.  But trying to dig yourself out of a deep hole after being caught plagiarizing another’s work is MUCH harder work!  If you include any snippets of content from other websites, make sure you reference the original source – and including a link to the original source website is always in good taste.

And if you find that writing original content – particularly content optimized for search engines – is too time-consuming, there are options…. enlist SEO help!