Herald de Paris Accuses Gawker of Plagiarism

We’ll always have Paris, indeed: Herald de Paris blasted Gawker, accusing the gossip Web site and writer Adrian Chen of lifting quotes directly from a story by the French site’s multimedia reporter, Kirsten Brownrigg, for Gawker’s story about the creator of a viral campaign ad in Alabama, Ladd Ehlinger Jr.

Herald de Paris didn’t beat around the bush, either, following up a scalding post by Brownrigg with more needling in another post by op-ed columnist Jes Alexander.

Several quotes from Ehlinger appear identically in both stories.

UPDATED May 26, 1:05 p.m.:Chen responded via email Wednesday:

Just saw your post about my blatant plagiarism. I wanted to let you know that I credited and linked to the Herald‘s interview when I originally posted the item, exactly as it appears in the post now. We did make a few changes to the post: We fixed the spelling of Ladd Ehlinger’s name and replaced the video, which was originally the trailer for a different adaptation of “Flatland.” Charging Gawker with plagiarism seems to be the Herald‘s new PR strategy. Their publisher was on Ehlinger’s radio show a few days ago talking about this for many, many minutes.

Highlights from Brownrigg’s post, Plagiarism and the Web: A Blunt Look at How the ‘Net Redefines Ethics (notice, we are indeed crediting her):

Hello, Gawker. Allow me to introduce myself. I’m the reporter whose material you recently plagiarized for one of your articles.

The content in question came from a profile the Herald de Paris published on Ladd Ehlinger Jr., just hours after his political ad for an Alabama candidate went viral on the Web. It was a nice little scoop, considering the roaring popularity the video enjoyed among politicos.

I’m flattered, really, that you trusted the accuracy of my reporting so implicitly by plucking several quotes from my article (without linking to us or stating that those words came from any outside source). I’m touched, moreover, that you admired my headline enough to closely model yours after it. Although I was a little confused how you managed to misspell Ehlinger’s name, because I certainly spelled it correctly.

But I suppose when you copied and pasted from the body of my work, you must have simply neglected to highlight that portion.

Yes, I’m flattered. But mostly, I’m furious.

You see, I’m the one who spent three collective hours chatting on the phone with Ehlinger so I might flesh out his personality when I put pen to paper. I’m the one who tuned into his radio program for several more hours, so I could accurately depict his message. I’m also the one who brainstormed that headline you liked so much, and it took me some time before I settled on just the right wording. And finally, my publisher is the one who then edited and fine-tuned the piece before it was published to the Web.

But you didn’t credit me, and you didn’t credit my publisher. And when we discovered your fraud, you rushed to cover up your compositional counterfeiting by slapping in a link to us and changing the formats of the quotes. Oh, and fixing the egregious spelling error.

Still, the damage was done. Most of your readers had already visited that particular blog, and the window of opportunity for the Herald to benefit from your use of our report was closed.

People like myself and my publisher are not here to act as your golden retrievers; we do not scurry forth to fetch this information, just so that you may pilfer it and slap down our quotes as if they were yours. As if you had invested your precious time into doing all that footwork.


david.cohen@adweek.com David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.
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