To Whom It May Concern
March 13, 2012
Or, Hey Girl, I Heard You Were Blogging My Blogs On Your Blog, And Then Again On A Blog That Paid You To Blog, But You Were Blogging My Blogs And Not Your Blogs, In Other Words Stealing Stuff I Wrote Which I Am Pretty Sure Is Not Cool, Girl
Or, Choice Excerpts From The Most Fun Email I Have Ever Had The Honor Of Writing
Well. It's unfortunate that we had to be introduced under these circumstances. Before I go any further, allow me to tell you a little about myself. I think some of this may be relevant in a bit.
Like you, I married very young -- I was 20 years old at my wedding. Couldn't even drink the champagne! I put myself through college a course or two at a time, while working full-time, until I finally got my degree when I was 27 years old. I started my blog in 2003, when I was 26. I was hired as a columnist for AlphaMom -- my first "real" professional writing gig, when I was 28, right after having my first baby. Holy crap, was that ever a dream come true.
Like you, I have three children now: Noah, Ezra and Baby Ike, who was just born last June. When I was six months pregnant with him, my father died of cancer. I don't mention this to play the Pain Olympics or anything, but since you seem to be bringing up your pregnancy as a sympathy ploy, I do want to say that I DO sympathize with what I'm assuming is your current stress level over this mess.The universe has shitty timing sometimes, and it sucks.
The writing you stole was written about my second pregnancy. It is all very near and dear to me, and I am fiercely protective of it, as I'm sure you understand. What you did was like someone swiping your belly pics and passing them off as their own: creepy, invasive and wrong. I imagine if that happened to you, you would waste no time in leading an Internet charge against that person, no matter what excuses they offered.
So on that note, let's break yours down:
"I started writing a long time ago, when I was young and did first start under not knowing the proper rules. I have no real education in writing and never claimed I did, I just liked to share my feelings and my life with my friends and family."
You use your youth as an excuse a lot. And lack of formal education. However, plagiarism -- passing someone's work off as your own -- is something that most of us learn by the time we turn in our first book report in elementary school. My kindergartner knows that stealing is wrong and that it's important to do your own work. So...sorry. I will not accept that one.
Also, this was happening in 2009. Three years ago. While I don't know the full history of your blog, a quick glance through your pregnancy archive reveals that you were already pretty established -- established enough for your entries to garner double-digit comments and for brands to be approaching you with sponsorship deals and free nursery furniture. Free nursery furniture! That's impressive! Even I've never managed that one. Clearly, despite your youth and educational background you hit the ground running as a pretty savvy blogger who knew how to network and promote yourself.
Which is why I do not buy that you did not understand "the rules." Linking. Quotation marks. That little fancy blockquote button thingie.
And barring that, when your commenters chimed in saying stuff like "LOL YOU'RE SO FUNNY" and specifically calling out jokes and lines THAT YOU DID NOT WRITE, you could have stepped in and say, "Whoops, sorry guys! That line came from this post. I should've linked to it, because I really like it!"
"I have been recently told that I have plagiarized your whole articles, and never intended to steal anything. I took some great lines and did not cite them, which was a big mistake. I am now just 27 and learning everyday as I grow how to avoid these mistakes in the future. I never meant to hurt anyone or steal from anyone."
Seriously? You needed to be told that you did not actually write the words you published? You did not intend to steal when you plagiarized me week after week, in a variety of different ways? You're going with "I didn't cite properly?" Sometimes you reworded my jokes. Sometimes you took just a line or two and flushed it out with your own writing. Sometimes you just copy-and-pasted the entire thing, whole paragraphs at a time. Once you found out your baby was a girl and mine was a boy, you changed the pronouns and left everything else. This is behavior you know not to do by middle school, if not earlier. The fact that it was on the Internet doesn't mean the rules were any different, and I think you knew that. I think you simply figured you weren't going to ever get caught.
And again, stop with the "I am only 27" thing. It's insulting to people younger than you who absolutely know how to not steal other people's writing.
"I have been going through my blog all day long and publishing my posts and just want to make sure I dont have any other mistakes that will come to haunt me."
I appreciate you taking my writing down. I really do. The thing that still kinda bugs me is that in the end you just took everything down because you claim that you simply can't remember what you wrote...and what I wrote. From three years ago. I am pretty sure someone could put a dozen different articles/blog posts/whatevers in front of me and I could tell you which ones were mine and which ones were not.
"I am 27 years old and have made mistakes. I now feel really bad and almost just want to give up."
Really? You are 27? Huh. Didn't know that. Why do you seem to think 27-year-old women should get a free pass through adulthood? I sense you imagine I am some ancient, over-educated old lady when I'm only a few years older than you with a freaking Bachelor's degree from an commuter/distance-ed college in Communications. At 27 I was a grown-up. And so are you. You are far, far smarter and savvier than you are letting on, or are letting yourself believe.
Read through the emails you have sent to everybody involved in this and count the number of times you bring up your age and being "young" and seriously: Figure out why you do that, and knock it off. It's. Not. An. Excuse.
"I wrote about my pregnancies and never meant to have it backfire in my face. I just wanted to share my joy and I found those lines great, just didnt quite understand the proper rules to citing."
But you didn't technically really write about your pregnancies. You wrote about MY pregnancy. MY joy.
And let's not forget when and where you were ACTUALLY caught plagiarizing: yesterday, three years later, in a paid column at Babble. (Big thanks to alert reader Catherine for the heads' up, by the way.) Presumably, by then, you DID know the rules, yet you posted my words as yours on multiple occasions.
I also write for Babble. Like AlphaMom, I have nothing but wonderful things to say about their editorial guidelines and standards, and the people I work with for who inspire me to write to the very best of my ability. And so I have read the contract you signed. It is very, very clear that you are expected to write your own words, to clearly cite and attribute and link. I'm not entirely sure why you thought it was a good idea to copy-and-paste your own archives as part of a PAYING, PROFESSIONAL JOB, but even assuming that you had cleared that with Babble ahead of time, there's still the little problem that one of the articles you posted there -- the sex & pregnancy one -- was a top to bottom copy/paste job with only a few minor word changes. And I never found that one on your personal blog, and yes, I looked very hard and very carefully. (Which is not being "obsessive-compulsive," by the way -- nice tweet! good call on deleting it, though -- it's called protecting my brand and my writing.)
That's...quite troubling, and negates a lot of your excuses and explanations that you thought you were only technically plagiarizing yourself at Babble. If I am wrong about this, I am sorry, but I still feel like we're splitting hairs here. 2009 vs. 2012. You still stole it, and I cannot honestly believe you're trying to convince me that you simply FORGOT that you didn't actually write a single word of that post.
BTW, you stole an article I wrote about my SEX LIFE. Holy SHIT.
Okay, since the rest of your email is pretty much a repetition of your age and how you never "meant" for this to happen, let's move on. I'd like to give you some PR crisis management advice here. From one old, ancient, decrepit blogger to a younger one. Come clean, publicly. Apologize -- to me, Isabel and the folks at Babble -- without any excuses or revisionist half-truths that are easily proven wrong/shady by five minutes in Google Cache or the Wayback Machine. Plagiarism is a big deal, yes, and it is -- often -- a career killer, even for older, educated, established writers/journalists who made one measly little mistake. It's not a question of maturity, but one of integrity.
Yes, I have a very large readership and Twitter following. I sense you didn't know that when you chose my articles to swipe, and I know that you're terrified now of this getting "out" -- I noticed your husband tweeting cryptic messages about sinister Internet stalkers keeping you down, as if he's hoping people will think that's why you were fired from Babble, and play this mess so anyone who dares to say anything is just trying to "ruin" a poor, hard-working 27-years-young (OMG STOPIT) woman. Even though, again, I sense you two would not be nearly so kind to anyone who stole as much as a recipe photo from your blog.
I am not a bully. I am not a mean girl. I have never even engaged in a single Twitter argument with anyone and seriously, Internet drama gives me hives and I avoid it at all costs. I HATE this stuff, really and truly. I have no desire to "ruin" you or send people after you with torches and pitchforks.
However, I am a professional blogger with a brand and a reputation to protect. I am also a person with feelings who writes about those feelings and any and all significant (and insignificant) events in my life on the Internet. You stole -- over and over and over -- MY words, and made money and sponsorships and connections using them. So I will be writing about this today on my blog -- I have every right to, as I'm sure you understand -- and I will NOT be naming you or linking to you or anything.
But this is by no means a get-out-of-Internet-drama-free card. Mostly, I just don't care to send you the traffic. I imagine some people will figure it out. So tread carefully. Don't give the Internet what it wants, which is a drawn-out childish temper tantrum about what counts as stealing and plagiarism and what the definition of "is" is. Own what you did: I stole. I was stupid. I'm embarrassed and I am sorry and hoo boy, I will never, ever do it again. Pledge to earn your readers' trust -- and the trust of the brands and advertisers you attracted using someone else's words -- by giving them nothing but the brutal truth now.
I accept your apology for being very sorry you got caught. I still sense I am owed one for being serially -- and very deliberately -- plagiarized.
PS. In the interest of full disclosure and transparency, I should note that some lines have been changed from my original response I sent directly to her, for reasons of timeline clarity or identification purposes.
PPS. And also that my "apology" email contained the following confidentially footer, that I willfully and knowingly ignored while copying-and-pasting her words: This email is intended only for the person(s) or entity to which it is addressed and may contain information that is privileged, confidential, and protected. It is not to be disseminated, distributed, copied, or shared by others. On the plus side, though, I believe I clearly marked her words vs. mine with quotation marks and italics. So. There is that.
PPPS. OMG THESE POSTSCRIPTS ARE IN ITALICS SO WHO IS TYPING THESE WORDS HOLY CRAP WORMHOLE NOOOOOOO...