Reading Time: 4 minutes

Many people had probably never heard of the New England-based Cooks Source magazine, and the regional publication probably would have plodded along that way indefinitely. That is, until one ill-timed and inappropriate email from editor Judith Griggs generated a huge online controversy that brought the magazine to its knees.

Cooks Source - Original Facebook Page
Image by davefleet via Flickr

The real moral to this story is that everything you do online is your resume. When dealing with email, websites, blogging and social media everything and anything can be examined under a microscope. Any shortcuts – or worse – can not only be publicized but could result in waves of negative publicity that are impossible to overcome. In this case, Cooks Source lost; as of Nov. 18 it’s believed the magazine folded. The company’s website is gone, and so is its Facebook page, which had been hijacked by angry commenters. You can track the entire story on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cooks_Source_infringement_controversy.

It all started when a writer, Monica Gaudio, learned one of her articles had appeared in the magazine. A friend alerted her to its publication and hoped Monica could tell him how to get published in Cooks Source. There was just one problem: Monica had never submitted an article to Cooks Source. When she called up the article in question, however, it was her article, a copyrighted piece that Cooks Source was not permitted to run. Monica sought an apology and a donation to the Columbia University School of Journalism from the editor and instead received an arrogant, dismissive reply via email. That email appeared on Monica’s blog and suddenly a number of bloggers flew to Monica’s defense and angrily denounced Judith. (For the best background on this story, read http://www.edrants.com/the-cooks-source-scandal-how-a-magazine-profits-on-theft/).

It didn’t end there.

Google Search homepage
Image via Wikipedia

Angry bloggers to the tune of 6,000 or so “Liked” Cooks Source on Facebook so they could then flood the page with cutting comments. A Google bomb campaign suddenly appeared for griggs (as in editor Judith Griggs) with following definition:

1.    To use content on the web without permission, then request payment from original author for rewrites and editing.
2.    To remain ignorant of plagiarism, ethics, copyright, and asshat behavior.

Within a few hours, that definition of Judith Griggs appeared on Page 1 of Google results. The death knell was the investigative post that appeared on Edward Champion’s Reluctant Habits which revealed at least six other plagiarized articles – all verified by the authors of those articles after Ed contacted them.

What made this issue an Internet sensation in the first place was the arrogant and dismissive way in which the magazine’s editor initially rebuffed Monica’s demand for an apology:

Leek Tart close-up.j
Image via Wikipedia

“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! I never charge young writers for advice or rewriting poorly written pieces, and have many who write for me… ALWAYS for free!”

If Griggs had apologized as Monica had requested, the matter might have just disappeared instead of becoming a cause célèbre for writers all over the Internet. In the end, Griggs only made it worse in the end by trying to blame Monica for everything (which generated a fresh round of online derision). And that’s the lesson we’re emphasizing: everything you do online, from the email you send, the blog posts you write, the chats you have on Facebook – anything that is online can be made public at any time. We’re not kidding when we advise clients to make sure everything they put online is something they’d be comfortable with their grandmother seeing. It should also go without saying that correspondence online, whether through email, IM, chat, etc., is not necessarily private. How you conduct yourself matters. Always.

We’ve seen authors blast reviewers via email for a review they didn’t like, assuming the email was private. But in many cases, bloggers have posted the emails on their blogs, ensuring that hundreds (if not more) see firsthand how unreasonable the author is. That is not good for business. Other authors have posted angry, rude, insulting and even threatening comments on reviewers’ blogs in response to a review. Needless to say, such rants have not helped those authors’ careers.

While Judith Griggs and Cooks Source have received extraordinary publicity, it’s not the kind that worked in their favor. You spend a lot of time building your brand online via your website, blogging and social media. Don’t let careless (thoughtless, angry, inaccurate, unkind, untrue…. etc.) words expressed somewhere online tear it down!

Enhanced by Zemanta
Author Marketing Experts

Subscribe Today

Sign up for a free subscription to Book Marketing Alerts, our once-monthly roundup of publishing and publicity guidance for authors. As a special welcome gift we'll also send you our Monthly Book Marketing Planner, the organizer every author needs to succeed!

You have successfully subscribed! Check your inbox for details.