In Defense

Posted 8 January, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in blogging

You may or may not know that on New Years Day on Twitter, I publicly outed a blogger that was plagiarizing heavily. While I tried to make my reasons and the facts as transparent as possible we all know that Twitter is not always the best forum for explaining things that take more than 140 characters. So here I shall offer the full facts to all who choose to read them. The screenshots and proof remain on Twitter along with the name of the blogger, so I shall not repeat that information here. I will refer to this blogger as AW.

I was not then, I am not now, nor have I ever been interested in a witch-hunt, a smear campaign, or vengeance against AW. There was no coordinated ‘attack’ to have people comment on Twitter in the rapidity that they did.  I considered her a friend and a colleague, which made the whole thing ever so much more disappointing and quite frankly difficult to do.

Smart Bitches Trashy Books may have put it best in their post: Plagiarism Bingo: O – Hatemail.

This kind of bullshit makes it more intimidating to bring up plagiarism, and if we don’t bring plagiarism up, it won’t stop. But we also have to discuss the intimidating and haterating that follows any revelation of plagiarism, because those reactions also seem to follow a predictable pattern, and probably do plenty to convince those who have been plagiarized, or who have discovered it, to keep quiet because have mercy, it is not pleasant.” (Emphasis mine.)


The Facts
The whole thing started when a blogger (DT) noticed that bits and pieces of her content were appearing in recent posts made by AW. She appealed to a small group of bloggers on what to do about the situation.

Based on the group’s advice, DT emailed AW and requested that she remove the plagiarized content. AW replied with a flimsy excuse (her young daughter had copied and pasted the content). She did not admit wrongdoing, but she did immediately remove DT’s content from the post.

Though the content had been removed, the flimsiness of AW’s excuse spurred a number of us to look deeper into the blog, mostly to ensure that none of our content had been stolen. No fewer than eight posts had full paragraphs cut and pasted from other sources, none attributed. The sources ranged from other bloggers, to NPR, to Entertainment Weekly. Quite frankly, we were shocked, saddened, and at a complete loss of what else to do. 

AW was contacted via email once again upon the discovery of her more egregious plagiarism and again made no acknowledgement of wrongdoing.

The biggest issue, for me, was that AW was attempting to use the credibility gleaned from her blog to start a business representing and marketing to authors.  As I stated on Twitter the pressing reason I felt that this issue had to see the light of day publicly was because at the time it seemed that AW had every intention on continuing on with that business and taking money from authors. This is a practice that combined with plagiarism I find to be wholly incompatible and unconscionable. 

At that point, knowing what I did and having attempted to deal with the situation privately ‘as adults’, but with absolutely no cooperation, change in behavior, or sense of remorse I felt the only avenue left open was to take it to Twitter.

So in defense of criticism that it should have been handled privately, it should be known that myself and the other bloggers involved did in good faith attempt to do just that.

The truth is I take absolutely no pleasure in what I did, it made me uncomfortable, sad, and feel a little like an asshole. That does not change the fact that I still believe what I did was the right thing to do. You can see all my thoughts on how plagiarism makes all book bloggers look bad in this post.

Since the public ‘outing’ AW’s blog is no longer available for public consumption and to the best of my knowledge she is discontinuing her consulting business. All anyone involved really wanted was to hear from AW was the acknowledgement that she had done something wrong and that she would not engage in such behavior in the future. If a private acknowledgement of these things had been made and if there had been any serious attempt to rectify the situation I think the whole Twitter fiasco could have been avoided. 

I fully intend that this is the last post that I will make on this issue. I hope it has been useful in clarifying some points that may have been misunderstood or unknown.

I’d also like to thank the bloggers who know who they are in helping me compose this post. Couldn’t have done it without y’all.

Edit: 19 Feb 2015 the blogger in question finally issued and apology that can be found here.

 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

25 Comments/ :

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  • What a mess! It’s rough to be a whistleblower, but you definitely weren’t in the wrong.

  • Sad to hear 🙁 But I think you did the right thing, too!

  • Suzy

    You absolutely did the right thing. Do not feel bad about it. She should be the one who feels bad and embarrassed. She flat out lied to readers, bloggers, publishers, publicists, authors and her friends. She was doing what she did to benefit herself and her new business venture. I don’t understand how people can’t see through someone who is phony. I saw through her a long time ago. Glad others finally did, too. Bravo to you, April!!!

    • readersrespite

      I’m not sure April is going for the pitchforks here, that may be missing the point of her post. She wasn’t setting out to “destroy” another person. She saw a wrong that she wanted to set to rights is all. It wasn’t about dismantling another person, gah.

  • Messy situation 🙁
    You did the right thing.

  • I, for one, am grateful that you put this out there for all to see. Yes it was a mess, yes some people will think you did the wrong thing and will always support the “other side”, but as fellow bloggers and readers we deserved to know. Specifically the added details you listed above (placing blame on her daughter…just WOW!), it says a lot about the kind of person she is and the depth of lies she was in.
    I was scheduled to host some of her authors on tour in the coming months, and I haven’t heard a single thing from her whether to cancel/postpone or otherwise. Surely it is common decency to at least get in touch with those who were willing to support a new business venture.
    You obviously have a great group of people to look to for advice, and I think it goes without saying that you had the support of many more.

  • Instead of feeling like an asshole, maybe you should feel incredibly proud. I for one am proud of you and i think the whole book blogging community should admire the action you’ve taken.

  • Tanya M

    I am thankful you brought this to the light of day. I was scheduled to be on one of her blog tours to and am sad for the author’s sake that i guess her book won’t be on a blog tour, I don’t know I hadn’t heard anything. I am even sadder the blogger couldn’t admit what she did wrong, fix it and try to move on. It makes you wonder just how pervasive the plaigirism was, was none of her content her own? Though ugly, other bloggers can learn from it. Be genuine, give credit where it’s due. Simple. It’s not a witchhunt but each blogger has right to be proud of his or her content. It’s not for others to steal just because it’s public.

  • kayleigh M

    Since I’m such a casual blogger who mostly started as a way to meet other readers, it always boggles my mind a little to imagine being so desperate for content (is that what sparks the plagiarism? Maybe not) that I’d steal from someone else. But I think you absolutely did the right thing. It isn’t fair on the people she was stealing from or the potential clients she’d land as a result and it’s not fair to herself either. Hopefully she can reassess and come back with original content in the future and if she doesn’t I’m sure she learned a very valuable lesson.

  • I, too, considered her a friend and I have struggled with this so much. On the one hand, I want to feel bad for her because I think she is a good person (she has done nice things for me), just probably naive and without a sense of ethics.

    On the other hand, I am upset and hurt that she not only did this to herself, but that when I asked her privately what happened to her blog (having missed the whole thing earlier) she lied to me about it. I had to find out from 2 other blogger friends what really went down. I am sure she was just embarrassed but it still stung. I can’t really muster up any kind of empathy. I want to, I do, but I cannot. We all work hard to deliver original content to our blogs and it is not okay for someone to come along and take advantage of that. She did not care that these were copyrighted, that people were her friends, nothing. It’s like she thought ok this person and that person don’t like to be copied so I will copy someone else? Faulty logic there. What makes it worse is that she can be sued for what she did.

    And what makes it even worse than that, is she made all of us look bad. Like we can’t come up with our own content we just copy from bigger names. What does that say about bloggers? What would it say about us if we didn’t make sure people knew we don’t stand for this as a community? If we don’t have the time to write, then WE SHOULD NOT PRETEND WE DO. I cannot stress that enough. Just freaking take a break. I’ve done it, lots of bloggers have. We, as women, are told we are supposed to be able to do everything – have a full-time job, run a household, raise a family, have a pack of friends, volunteer, donate time to hobbies – but we cannot do it all.

    I don’t think what she did was the worst thing she could have possibly done as a blogger. She did not destroy anyone else’s blog, she destroyed herself. She took herself down. But, after deliberating on it, I think outing her was the right call. She was not going to stop. I wish her lots of luck in the future, but I hope she learns from this, I really do.

  • Isi

    April, I think you did right.
    My point of view is: if a blogger is plagiarizing other bloggers, I would really like someone to bring it up in order to stop following that blogger. So if nobody tells anything, and the blogger is not going to change his/her behaviour, his/her followers will never have the slightless idea about what’s going on.
    So this time you were the one who pointed it out loud on twitter. Well done.

  • Books on the Table

    I’m just catching up on this sad story — found about it because I was trying to locate the blog and couldn’t understand why it had vanished from the Internet. You absolutely did the right thing. Plagiarism, especially on this scale, has the possible effect of damaging the credibility of book bloggers in general. By the way, my initials are AW and I promise I’ve never plagiarized anything! All my posts (good, bad, and mediocre) are my own. 🙂

    • AW are my initials too. 🙂 Which is why I chose them, in hindsight I should have gone with something so out there it couldn’t be anyone. 🙂

  • I was only vaguely aware of “AW” and her blog (yay for me being a really bad blogger and not spending as much time writing, reading, and commenting as I should be), but I saw the “bloghonest” hashtag all over my social media and figured it had something to do with a blogger and plagiarism. I just got a chance to look at your post now and I have to say, I’m really shocked! I know she wouldn’t have stolen anything from me, as I’m a much smaller blogger than she is, but to think that she would have stolen from anyone and not only refused to apologize but to blame her daughter and then remove her entire presence is crazy. I feel sad for her. Sure, it’s embarrassing — but if she’d just apologized and taken down or rewritten the plagiarized posts with original content, she’d still be among us now. You absolutely did the right thing, and you should be proud for defending the entire book blogging community, large and small.

    • readersrespite

      I’m not defending this blogger’s actions because, well….plagiarism. It’s bad. Really bad. I just wanted to correct some misinformation. First, the blogger in question did apologize to directly (one on one) to certain people. This can be read on April’s (and other people’s) twitter feed while the incident was ongoing on 12/31. Also, the blogger took down her blog because other bloggers felt it would be best if she just shut her blog down completely as well as close down her author consulting business in order to make this right. The blogger complied with their wishes.

      • I’m so sorry!!! I’m happy to hear that she apologized, and I’m sad to hear the backstory about why her blog disappeared. I’m just sad for her, and for the book blogging community in general. I wish it went without saying that all bloggers blogged honestly!

        • readersrespite

          Oh, don’t be sorry!!! You didn’t know! I know what you mean, non-plagiarism should be a given. The whole thing is a sad, sad story. 🙁

  • Wow – I completely missed this post until Jennifer (Relentless Reader) linked to it on her weekly update. AND – I had no idea what was going on…AND I just linked to one of AW’s reviews (Cry Father) in a review I posted today (I’d written the review a month ago, when her blog was still up). I’m going to take that link out of my post. And I read her blog quite often…as it sounds like many others did. I never noticed any plagiarism…mostly because I don’t read traditional media’s book reviews…only other bloggers. But, it sounds like I should have picked up on some other bloggers’ content in there 🙁
    Anyway – I commend you for your bravery and this sounds like an incredibly difficult situation.

    • Oh, Sarah, don’t worry about not picking up on it. No one did until “DT” came to a number of us and noticed that it was HER content.

  • Sadly so many people are affected when something like this goes down.
    It’s amazing how powerful words are. Words can do so much to people. Whether you write them, read them, or steal them.
    I have to commend you for the way you handled this.
    You and others did what you had to do privately. and I know it was not an easy decision to go public.
    I feel bad that people are now sad and feel betrayed and are angry too.
    I wish that these situations would be learning experiences for others.
    There is no need to plagiarize. If the creative juices are feeling stifled, take a break.
    I always thought this was a bunch of hooey, but it really is true-everything that is in the dark will come into the light eventually.

  • Yeah plagiarism just doesn’t make sense to me, especially for a reader.

  • There is no excuse of stealing, no two ways about that, so when it happens within the community it makes it so much more hurtful. April, I am proud that you and many others have had the guts to say something about how unacceptable and unethical plagiarism is. I know it must be hard but it was absolutely necessary; the book blogging community is a better place for it. We all need to be continually vigilant.

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