Category Archives: Crimes against literature

Lying to children about the past

I reviewed A Birthday Cake for George Washington, the controversial children’s picture book about slavery, for the Seattle Review of Books— read it here: http://seattlereviewofbooks.com/reviews/the-idea-of-freedom-might-be-too-great-a-temptation-for-them-to-resist/

In my review I tell the real story of Hercules, George Washington’s slave-cook, a story far different from the happy fictional one in the book, which was promoted as “based on real events.” SPOILER ALERT: On Washington’s 65th birthday, Hercules didn’t bake a cake– he escaped.

The book was withdrawn by the publisher over the MLK holiday weekend, but the issues it raises are larger than this particular book. We should tell the complicated truths about America’s founders and founding and stop lying to our children about the past.

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My Banned Books Week post for the Bauman Rare Books blog

We Read Banned Books is my latest post for the Bauman Rare Books blog, featuring the stories of six important books: Joyce’s Ulysses, Galileo’s Dialogo, Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and Nabokov’s Lolita.

Read it here: http://www.baumanrarebooks.com/blog/read-banned-books/

Ulysses

 

 

 

 

 

A final post on Cooks Source (updated)

Over the weekend, the Daily Hampshire Gazette posted an article by Dan Crowley containing an interview with Judith Griggs about the Cook Source copyright infringement kerfuffle. (See my two previous posts for background.)

I found the article rather sad, as she still doesn’t seem to get it. She admits printing Monica’s article without permission was wrong but continues to make vague excuses about overwork (she and her daughter run the magazine alone) and her “shortcomings when it comes to understanding copyright law.” She clearly doesn’t understand that what sent everyone into a frenzy was the tone and content of her truly extraordinary e-mail to Monica. It was just so wrong, arrogant, and unintentionally funny that it became an instant meme.

And now she has replaced her previous unsigned statement on the Cooks Source website with a new one, full of anger and self-pity (and lots of spelling and punctuation errors):

Its sad really. The problem is that I have been so overworked and stretched that when this woman — Monica — contacted me, I was on deadline and traveling at the rate of 200 mile a day for that week (over 900 in total for that week), which I actually told her, along with a few other “nice” things, which she hasnt written about. I was stupid to even answer her that night, her email to me was antagonistic and just plain rude and I was exhausted. But I got suckered in and responded. She doesnt say that she was rude, she doesnt say that I agreed (and did) to pay her. It was my plan to contact her after deadline and have a good discussion about it….

I should add that this email exchange took place the day before she wrote her article for the world. After she (likely) received my email, she called the home office phone at 10PM, I didnt answer that late, was in bed as I was traveling again the next day (left at 7AM the next morning) to Connecticut, and didnt get back to her. This is not an uncommon practice with anyone, to not respond to a phone call for a day or two, it happens to me from other businesses, all the time. I came home that day from being in Connecticut to find hundreds of phone messages and emails telling me I sucked and was a dirtbag… and much MUCH worse.

I really wish she had given me a chance to respond to her before blasting me. She really never gave me a chance….

This is how it happened:
When putting together a magazine, a publishing firm usually has a staff of many, a stable of writers and proofreaders. Cooks Source doesnt, it is just us two…and believe me we would if we could use more help. Consequently I do much, have a few stalwart writers who love to write (for free) and a number of publishers and book agents who send me A LOT of books, recipes, press releases, etc — I recieved one even today. In the past I have also assisted budding writers with their writing skills and given them a portfolio piece they can get jobs with, from magazines and newspapers that will pay them. In short, we do a lot of good, sell a lot of books for authors, and help a lot of people. But one night when working yet another 12 hour day late into the night, I was short one article… Instead of picking up one of the multitude of books sent to me and typing it, I got lazy and went to the www and “found” something. Bleary-eyed I didnt notice it was copy written and reordered some of it. I did keep the author’s name on it rather than outright “stealing” it, and it was my intention to contact the author, but I simply forgot, between proofreading, deliveries, exhaustion….

The bad news is that this is probably the final straw for Cooks Source. We have never been a great money-maker even with all the good we do for businesses. Having a black mark wont help…and now, our black mark will become our shroud. Winters are bleak in Western New England, and as such they are bleak for Cooks Source as well. This will end us….

Thank you to all our readers, thanks to all our advertisers and writers… and to everyone who has been supportive and who has been a part of Cooks Source. To one writer in particular, Monica Gaudio, I wish you had given me a chance.

You can read the whole thing here.

What a shameful way for Judith Griggs to exit the stage.

Update 1: Here’s Monica’s response.

Update 2 (11/17/10, morning): In a new article in the Daily Hampshire Gazette, Dan Crowley reports that Judith Griggs is officially shutting down Cooks Source magazine:

“Cooks Source is gone,” Judith D. Griggs said Tuesday, just days after personally distributing her last issue of the free magazine in western New England. “It’s done.”… In a phone interview Tuesday, Griggs said she will leave her statement up a few more days before eliminating the Cooks Source website altogether.

Update 3 (11/17/10, afternoon): The Cooks Source website is gone. Here’s the Google cache of Judith Griggs’ final statement.

Monica Gaudio has posted copies (with dates) of all of her e-mails to Judith Griggs, but she can’t publish the full text of the e-mails she received without permission.

But honestly, Cooks Source, your apology needs work

The Cooks Source website has been replaced with an unsigned statement (in serious need of editing) which eventually gets around to apologizing for the unauthorized publication of Monica Gaudio’s article in a very passive “mistakes were made” way. Without explicitly acknowledging that their entire business model appeared to be based on reprinting articles from food blogs and websites without permission or payment (see Ed Champion’s post identifying other articles as well as this spreadsheet listing the original sources of dozens of articles reprinted in Cooks Source), they do promise to change their ways.

Much of the statement is actually about the attacks on the Cooks Source Facebook page, the fake Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, and the harassment of advertisers. (The situation clearly escalated out of control and did lead to cyber-bullying and trolling. I don’t have a lot of sympathy for Judith Griggs because of her copyright infringement and her shocking and arrogant e-mail to Monica, but the rampaging internet hordes went too far with the personal attacks and the harassment of the advertisers.)

Here’s what the statement says about the misuse of Monica’s article and future changes:

Last month an article, “American as Apple Pie — Isn’t,” was placed in error in Cooks Source, without the approval of the writer, Monica Gaudio. We sincerely wish to apologize to her for this error, it was an oversight of a small, overworked staff. We have made a donation at her request, to her chosen institution, the Columbia School of Journalism. In addition, a donation to the Western New England Food Bank, is being made in her name. It should be noted that Monica was given a clear credit for using her article within the publication, and has been paid in the way that she has requested to be paid.

This issue has made certain changes here at Cooks Source. Starting with this month, we will now list all sources. Also we now request that all the articles and informational pieces will have been made with written consent of the writers, the book publishers and/or their agents or distributors, chefs and business owners. All submission authors and chefs and cooks will have emailed, and/or signed a release form for this material to Cooks Source and as such will have approved its final inclusion. Email submissions are considered consent, with a verbal/written follow-up….

However: Cooks Source can not vouch for all the writers we have used in the past, and in the future can only check to a certain extent.

That’s nice– blame unnamed writers for the magazine’s repeated copyright infringement. I don’t think that will get you off the hook when the lawyers from Food Network and Martha Stewart come knocking.

You can read the whole statement here.

John Scalzi gave the apology a D+. What do you think?

If you somehow missed the original kerfuffle, see my previous blog post, “No, the web is not ‘public domain.'”

Update: I love this very funny “slightly corrected” version of the Cooks Source statement on the KitchenMage blog.

No, the web is not “public domain”

If you haven’t been following the mind-boggling copyright infringement kerfuffle that’s currently setting the web on fire, here’s a quick recap. A copyrighted article was copied off a website and published in a print magazine named Cooks Source without the knowledge or consent (or payment) of the author, Monica Gaudio. When Monica found out, she contacted the magazine’s editor, Judith Griggs:

After the first couple of emails, the editor of Cooks Source asked me what I wanted — I responded that I wanted an apology on Facebook, a printed apology in the magazine and $130 donation (which turns out to be about $0.10 per word of the original article) to be given to the Columbia School of Journalism.What I got instead was this (I am just quoting a piece of it here:)

“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!”

That’s the very definition of chutzpah.

This is a case of copyright infringement, not plagiarism. It would have been plagiarism if the magazine had published the article without crediting the original author. The magazine made unauthorized use of material protected by copyright. This could be quickly resolved if both parties reach a settlement, or else the magazine could theoretically be sued and face financial penalties, though that is unlikely, as the legal fees would be prohibitive. However, I suspect the magazine is not long for this world, as on the magazine’s Facebook page advertisers are pulling out and people are identifying other examples of copyright infringement. If they’ve copied material from major food magazines or websites with deep pockets and lawyers, they’re toast.

Some related links:

Update 1: A post on “How Publishing Really Works” has more information and links, and it points out a new Facebook page for reporting the original sources of other articles published in the magazine, which apparently include the websites of Food Network, Paula Deen, and Martha Stewart, among other big names.

Update 2: BoingBoing, Gawker, and The Consumerist have now picked up the story, and the Twitter storm continues to grow.

How cutting and pasting can lead to plagiarism

In today’s New York Times, Public Editor Clark Hoyt’s column, titled “Journalistic Shoplifting,” is about the recent plagiarism scandal surrounding Times business reporter Zachery Kouwe.

I wanted to point out this particular passage, in which Hoyt notes that both Zachery Kouwe and Gerald Posner claim that their plagiarism was unintentional, caused by cutting and pasting material from other sources and mixing it up with their own writing:

Kouwe told [John Koblin of the New York Observer] that the plagiarism happened with minor news reported elsewhere that needed to be matched on DealBook. He said he would copy stories from wires, paste them into a file in the editing system, verify the information and then put the material in his own words. At least, he said, that is what he intended to do. When I asked him how he could fail to notice that he was copying someone else’s work, he added further explanation: He said the raw material in the computer files in which he assembled his stories included not only reports from other sources but also context and background from previous articles that he had written himself. When putting it all together, he said, he must have thought the words he copied were his own, earlier ones. “It was just my carelessness in trying to get it up quickly,” he said.

The explanation was similar to one offered only days earlier by Gerald Posner, a reporter for The Daily Beast, who was caught by Jack Shafer of Slate cribbing sentences from The Miami Herald. Posner, who resigned after even more plagiarism was found, also said that he did not do it intentionally. He said he had poured all his research — interviews, public documents, published articles — into a master electronic file and then boiled it into an article under tight Web deadlines, a process that led to disaster.

We’ve seen before how cutting and pasting material written by others can lead to plagiarism, as in the Chris Anderson Free/Wikipedia scandal.

Writers can protect themselves from this kind of  “unintentional plagiarism” by incorporating some simple and practical tips into their research and writing process. In a July 2009 blog post on avoiding plagiarism, I recommended Harvard University’s excellent PDF publication Writing with Internet Sources. The chapter on “Incorporating Electronic Sources into Your Writing” contains a section called “Strategies for Avoiding Internet Plagiarism” (pages 42-44), with important advice for writers:

Internet plagiarism most often occurs when writers cut and paste from the Internet or paraphrase carelessly… The following tips will help you research and write with honesty and integrity.

  • Plan ahead
    … Budget enough time to search for sources, take notes on them, and think about how to use them… Moments of carelessness are more common when you leave your [writing] until the last minute and are tired or stressed. Honest mistakes can lead to charges of plagiarism just as dishonesty can; be careful when note-taking and in the incorporation of ideas and language from electronic sources so you don’t “borrow”—i.e., unintentionally plagiarize—the work of another writer.
  • Print your sources
    Print the relevant pages from any websites you use, making sure that you note the complete URL….
  • File and label your sources
    Never cut and paste information from an electronic source straight into your own [writing]. Instead, open a separate document on your computer for each electronic source so you can file research information. When you cut and paste into that document, make sure to include the full URL….
  • Keep your own writing and your sources separate
    Work with either the printed copy of your source(s) or the copy you pasted into a separate document—not the online version—as you [write]….
  • Keep your notes and your draft separate
    Be careful to keep your research notes separate from your actual draft; this will ensure you don’t cut language from a source and paste it directly into your draft without proper attribution. You can open your notes and your draft next to each other on your computer screen and work back and forth.
  • Acknowledge your sources explicitly when paraphrasing
    In your research notes, use some form of notation to indicate what you’ve paraphrased (e.g., put brace brackets around the paraphrase), and mention the author’s name within the material you paraphrase. Once you start writing and revising, make sure you avoid gradually rewording the paraphrased material until you lose sight of the fact that it is still a paraphrase of someone else’s ideas….
  • Quote your sources properly
    Always use quotation marks for directly quoted material, even for short phrases and key terms….
  • Keep a source trail
    As you write and revise…, keep a source trail of notes and of each successive draft…. You ought to be able to reconstruct the path you took from your sources, to your notes, to your drafts, to your revision….

I also recommend that you read Craig Silverman’s recent column for the Columbia Journalism Review, “The Counter-Plagiarism Handbook: Tips for writers and editors on how to avoid or detect journalistic plagiarism.” Here are two of his useful tips for writers:

  • Use a different font and text color for your research files. This will help you instantly recognize other people’s words when you paste them into your story.
  • Add in the proper attribution as soon as you paste any research into your draft.

More closures of the Seattle Public Library system in 2010

As I suspected, the one-week closure of the entire Seattle Public Library system earlier this month was just the beginning. This year the library was asked to cut 2% of its budget (about $1 million), and the system was shut down for a week (with all employees unpaid during that time) to save $655,000. For more on this and my objections to it, see my earlier post “Why shut down the entire Seattle Public Library system for a week?”

Yesterday Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels proposed $41 million in cuts (about 4.4%) from the city budget for 2010. The Seattle Public Library system has to make cuts to its 2010 budget of 5%, about $2.8 million. As noted in today’s post on the Friends of the Seattle Public Library blog:

This is a significantly larger impact than what Seattle experienced with the downward adjustment of the 2009 budget. What does this mean to you and your neighborhood? A one week closure of the entire system and 21 branch libraries that will close Friday and Sunday all year. In addition, according to the library’s website, the proposed 2010 capital budget is down 37 percent from the 2009 adopted budget which means delays in the maintenance and upkeep of our very busy, well used buildings…

12 million people turned to our libraries last year. Many are accessing critical services: job search resources, free computers, wi-fi efficiency, community meeting space, literacy support and so forth. Our blog stories portray these everyday uses and the impact on individuals and families. Closed libraries and abbreviated access creates hardships. In the recession of 2002 and 2003 our library system was closed for two weeks each year and library hours were cut. The Library hasn’t regained the operating hours lost almost 7 years ago.

In 1998, Seattle voters approved a $196 million bond measure (“Libraries for All”) to build the new central library and build or renovate branch libraries, and the last project was completed in 2008. The bond money could only be used for the construction of libraries. I don’t think it makes much sense to build lots of new libraries but not fully fund their day-to-day operations. They should have a dedicated funding source so that the libraries don’t have to close or reduce their hours every time Seattle tax revenues go down.

The Seattle Public Library website has details of the proposed 2010 cuts:  about the budgetoperational budget reductions;  capital budget reductions;  reductions in branch hours.  The website notes:  “While the council allocates the funds to operate the Library, it is the Library Board’s responsibility to decide how that money is spent.”

Here’s the Seattle City Council’s 2010 budget calendar. There will be public hearings on October 7, 14, and 26th.