Who stole these cookies? But honestly Monica, that’s the question I really want answered.
First, the backstory: If the words “But honestly Monica” don’t have any special meaning for you then you missed the maelstrom that occurred last week after a small food magazine named Cooks Source blatantly lifted off the Internet an article about the medieval origins of apple tarts and printed it without payment.
When the author, Monica Gaudio, requested a donation of $130 be made to the Columbia Journalism School, she received the following response from the editor:
“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!"
And it went downhill from there as the editor dug her hole deeper, bloggers set flame to the Cooks Source Facebook page and the story went viral, hitting CNN, NPR, The Washington Post and others.
The one thing the Cooks Source editor has right: this does happen all the time, and as the editorial director of EatingWell Magazine and EatingWell.com, I see it far more than I care to.
For example, a while back we ran a blog, "7 Foods to Keep You Young," based on an award-winning article, "The Search for the Anti-Aging Diet," written by science writer Peter Jaret for EatingWell Magazine. The story was based on extensive research and offered some strong science that certain foods such as wine and nuts could delay the aging process. A few weeks later, a Google news alert showed up in my inbox. I clicked through and there was our exact blog on Iran’s Tehran Daily, with no attribution. The one funny thing, it was now “6 Foods to Keep You Young.” Seems like plagiarism is fine in Iran, but consumption of alcohol is not.
Perhaps the incident that sent me over the edge though was what we now refer to as Cookie Gate. Every year we run a delicious holiday cookie contest that challenges our readers to develop healthier holiday recipes. We do our best to check the recipes and make sure they are original. We then adapt them to our style, credit and reward the winners and photograph and print them in the November/December issue.
So imagine our surprise when we noticed another magazine hosting a “healthy cookie” contest and touting one of our winners, a cookie our reader had named Boot Tracks, on its cover. Had the magazine lifted the recipe? No, one of their readers had taken the recipe, word for edited word, as it appeared in our magazine, given it a new name and submitted it to the other publication as her own invention. And she won $1,000.
So, to the woman who stole the cookies, I have one request: Could you please donate $130 to the Columbia School of Journalism?
Have you ever passed a recipe off as your own? Tell us what you think below.