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Why the Entire Internet Attacked a Small Western New England Food Publication

Awhile back, Monica Gaudio wrote a cute story/recipe over at Gode Cookery entitled “A Tale of Two Tarts.” However, last week, Gaudio was informed by a friend that her piece had showed up in Cooks Source magazine, an interesting development seeing as how Gaudio had never provided permission for them to publish it. When Monica e-mailed the editor of Cooks Source (I feel like there should be an apostrophe in there somewhere?) asking for an apology and a $130 donation to the Columbia Journalism School, she got this reply from editor Judith Griggs:

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!

Ballsy and reprehensible. So Monica posted the story on her livejournal and the entire thing spread around the internet because it made for great tweet-material. “Writer gets story jacked, then thief asks HER for money!” and so on.

Now Cooks Source Facebook page is getting inundated with derogatory messages from all across the internet. I’ve screencapped a few of them, seeing as how I anticipate the page will be taken down by the end of the day.

I confess there’s something gratifying about seeing this completely unknown magazine burned in metaphorical effigy for their incompetence. People are threatening to make phone calls and e-mails to the magazine’s advertisers, and undoubtedly, some already have. There will likely be real-life consequences for the magazine and for Griggs, and they will be well-deserved.

Still, I can’t help but wonder how easy it is to rile up the mob these days. I have every bit of faith in Monica’s integrity, but nonetheless, all it takes is for someone to claim that you said some crazy sh*t in some e-mail to turn the collective might of the internet against you.

Update: Looks like the good folks at Reddit are investigating other instances of plagiarism in the magazine. In addition, Facebook users are determining where recipes from the current issue originated from (via onlinejournalismblog).

Update 2: In the time since this post was written, this story has gotten even bigger. Time has an interview with Monica and the LATimes has a good breakdown of events.