Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Twice Derped

Cooks Source magazine, which took baby steps forward a week ago in making amends to the writer whose article they printed without her permission took a step backwards this week, folding their magazine as I (or anyone, frankly) predicted and becoming a textbook example of how not to handle a social media crisis.

Their site is shut down -- even the latest half-assed apology posted is no longer live, but can be found in cache only (read it here).

In the statement, Cooks Source editor Judith Griggs reiterates and expounds upon her claims that she was overworked and overtired when she found Monica Gaudio's apple pie recipes on the Internet and plugged them into her magazine, giving Gaudio a byline credit but not the courtesy of asking permission first or offering to pay her for the work until the situation exploded.
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
Here, we hear the same tired story: She was rude to me and didn't report the "nice" things I said. Like that matters. What matters is that in offering a non-apology over stealing Gaudio's words, Griggs revealed little understanding of copyright law -- this post itself is copyrighted by me by the mere fact of writing it and posting it in a tangible fashion; that's all that's necessary to copyright words worldwide. She also revealed a fundamental misunderstanding of how quickly her words and her claim that everything on the Internet was in the public domain would spread worldwide, and how quickly it would sink her reputation and her business. Griggs, to her credit, did send in the donation to the Columbia School of Journalism that Gaudio suggested, along with a donation to a Massachusetts food bank. But the damage to Cooks Source is already done.

Griggs recognized a bit of Gaudio's power to take her message to the world, without recognizing, perhaps, that her own negative messages would also go out to the world as well. She wrote:
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.
The rest, as they say, is history. You can read here the official Wikipedia page on the Cooks Source scandal.

The most important lessons for anyone who has followed this scandal are these:
  1. Are we the pot calling the kettle black? I'm making efforts on this blog to use original or public domain illustrations now, rather than relying on whatever I could find on the Internet.
  2. As Joseph Kahn wrote for the Boston Globe, "The risk of private e-mails being seen by unintended recipients is hardly new. Practically everyone knows somebody who’s hit the “send’’ button and regretted it. Yet the ease and speed with which these communications can now spread have turned the e-landscape into even more of a minefield than it was a few years ago."
  3. Kahn also quotes a communications expert in his piece as saying that if you're not able to resolve a conflict with just a small handful of e-mails, stop writing them and get on the phone. We've learned this the hard way at Uncharted a time or two. I can testify that it's best t talk on the phone, even if that sounds more confrontational than writing an e-mail. E-mails are easily taken out of context, provide fodder for which antagonists can read between the lines and, in Griggs' case, show poor thought processes and a persecution complex, when contrition is really the answer.
  4. Remember that deadlines are artificial, especially when it comes to making shortcuts that could permanently damage your business and your reputation.

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