Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Does Judith Griggs of Cooks Source deserve our sympathy?

After some minimal statements, Judith Griggs of Cooks Source is talking again.

Jim Ulvog links to Dan Crowley's post which includes statements from Griggs. Here are some samples:

"I feel so bad for anybody now who has bad publicity because people can be so horrible," Griggs, 59, said in her first interview about the matter. "I don't know if I'm going to continue Cooks Source. At this point, it's looking doubtful."...

Although she made no excuses for taking Gaudio's story and running it in Cooks Source last month, Griggs said she's no expert on the finer points of copyright law.

"I don't know how other people handle this. We're so small," she said, of the publication. "I'm trying to figure out what to do next. I don't know if I can last through this."

Meanwhile, Sarah Lacy at TechCrunch has linked to the Cooks Source web site, which includes a new Statement. Note that this new Statement completely replaces the old Statement that was on the Cooks Source website as of November 9; if you never saw THAT statement, I reproduced it in a prior post. So here, for the record, is Judith Griggs' November 16 statement, in full.

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.
I was stupid to even answer her that night, her email to me was antagonistic and just plain rude and I was exhausted. But I got suckered in and responded. She doesnt say that she was rude, she doesnt say that I agreed (and did) to pay her. It was my plan to contact her after deadline and have a good discussion about it. The complicating issue was that one of the businesses we worked with had closed without notice, just a sign on the door -- leaving several people, including a chef who had relocated to this area from Florida -- out of work. I do not offer this as an excuse, but that, when she wanted money for Columbia University, it seemed ironic because there were all these people in this small town going into the holidays with no jobs, and no, well, nothing.

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. I came home that day from being in Connecticut to find hundreds of phone messages and emails telling me I sucked and was a dirtbag... and much MUCH worse.

I really wish she had given me a chance to respond to her before blasting me. She really never gave me a chance.

Since then, we have had so much hate email (over 400 pieces) , phone calls and regular mail. My advertisers too, have been so harassed that it has all muddies up the waters as to what the real situation is. I took the site downbecuase someone threatened to go to all the distribution spots and destroy the new issue, also to protect my advertisers.
Facebook has not responded at all; not taken these advertisers name off this bogus site -- or remove the site completely -- and takes no responsibility that someone unnamed can just create a page that can suggest that people -- and I am sure that in real walking-around reality you are all really nice people -- that people should email total innocent strangers and harass them to death. Honestly, some of you have been pretty mean. I have been busy for the last week, apologising to these business owners and helping them to get things right again. If my apology to Monica seemed shallow it was because I was angry about the harm she has inflicted on others on behalf of her own agenda.

So let me say this now: Monica I am so sorry for any harm I caused you. I never ment to hurt anyone, and I think I did a nice job for you, but the fact remains that I took this without asking you and that was so very wrong. Please find it in you heart to forgive me. I sent the check to the University and also, because so many people really need help, serious help, I am sending one to Food bank of Western Massachusetts (sorry, I got the name wrong the first time, even tho we did write an article on them).

This is how it happened:
When putting together a magazine, a publishing firm usually has a staff of many, a stable of writers and proofreaders. Cooks Source doesnt, it is just us two...and believe me we would if we could use more help. Consequently I do much, have a few stalwart writers who love to write (for free) and a number of publishers and book agents who send me A LOT of books, recipes, press releases, etc -- I recieved one even today. In the past I have also assisted budding writers with their writing skills and given them a portfolio piece they can get jobs with, from magazines and newspapers that will pay them. In short, we do a lot of good, sell a lot of books for authors, and help a lot of people.
But one night when working yet another 12 hour day late into the night, I was short one article... Instead of picking up one of the multitude of books sent to me and typing it, I got lazy and went to the www and "found" something. Bleary-eyed I didnt notice it was copy written and reordered some of it. I did keep the author's name on it rather than outright "stealing" it, and it was my intention to contact the author, but I simply forgot, between proofreading, deliveries, exhaustion.

Cooks Source for those of you who are not familiar with it, works with small food-oriented businesses and farms to get the word out on their works/products. We are about getting readers to get up and go to some of these places, because they are so great and so much fun. We write every month on over 20 + businesses and feature a town a month and all their good food and interesting shops. We cover 16 towns and villages in Western New England, every month.

The bad news is that this is probably the final straw for Cooks Source. We have never been a great money-maker even with all the good we do for businesses. Having a black mark wont help...and now, our black mark will become our shroud. Winters are bleak in Western New England, and as such they are bleak for Cooks Source as well. This will end us. In the end if we did keep going, I would (very gladly) hire someone else to serve as editor and just continue my work with the towns. You should know that I did have an interview last week and the reporter grilled me seriously. I was able to show him all the promo books and articles we receive, all the photos we take and the "clip art" that is free for everyone. I also showed him those emails...

Thank you to all our readers, thanks to all our advertisers and writers... and to everyone who has been supportive and who has been a part of Cooks Source. To one writer in particular, Monica Gaudio, I wish you had given me a chance.

Jim Ulvog (whom I know well) and Sarah Lacy (whom I have never met) have reached different conclusions about the whole affair. Ulvog concentrates on what someone in Griggs' position should do. Here's a sample:

When in a very embarrassing situation of your own making, a profuse apology would probably help. Apologies by the editor as quoted in Mr. Crowley’s article are a bit weaker than I would expect.

Read the rest here.

Lacy concentrates on the actions of the mob. Here's part of her post, entitled "Congrats, Self-Righteous Internet Mob. You Killed a Magazine":

Was Griggs a total jerk who deserved to be called out? Yes. Plagiarism is obviously never OK and when called on it, even if you’ve had a bad day, you don’t ask for money. It was just mind-bogglingly stupid.

Is she as great of a copy editor as she claimed? Not judging by the typos in the above blog post.

Was Cooks Source likely going to go out of business anyway if this is emblematic of how it acts and it was tipped into insolvency so quickly? Maybe.

Did she deserve to have the Internet destroy her business over– from what most of us know– was one series of mistakes? No.

The honest reality is two people know exactly what happened and the rest of us are going by second hand accounts. If we let anonymous mobs have this much power, the world — the real, flesh-and-blood human one, not the virtual one of Tweets, blog posts, comments and LiveJournal feeds– is going to get worse, not better.

For those who don't recall, Sarah Lacy has had her experience with Internet mobs. If you perform an Internet search on the words sarah lacy mark zuckerberg interview, you'll get a feel for what happened to Lacy. In fact, when the audience began to demand that audience members, rather than Lacy, interview Zuckerberg, CNET quoted Lacy as saying:

"Let's go with the Digg model and let them have mob rule."

So even though Lacy completely objects to what Griggs did, Lacy clearly has some empathy for what she went through. Here's part of what she said at the end of the TechCrunch post:

I admit I thought it was outrageous and in my head high-fived Monica for publishing the whole thing. (I still do actually.) But the difference is I didn’t send Griggs personal hate mail and I didn’t actively try to run Cooks Source out of business. Reading Griggs post affected me, because she’s a human being who made a series of really bad mistakes. Assuming Cooks Source did have some merit as a publication, shame on advertisers for being that cowed by a “scandal” everyone will forget about as soon as the next scandal shows up.

But does Griggs deserve our sympathy? Perhaps she has made a series of really bad mistakes, but in my view she continues to make a series of really bad mistakes. Let's take a look again at her November 9 statement. It consists of nine paragraphs - two apologizing to or praising Monica Gaudio (the writer whose work appeared in Cooks Source without her permission); two listing the changes being made at Cooks Source; one talking about the Cooks Source audience; and four bashing the users of Facebook, Twitter, and the website.

Incidentally, I have made a correction to my November 9 post. According to Dan Crowley's interview, Judith Griggs DID make a $50 contribution to the the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts.

Now let's look at Griggs' new statement. The two messages that emerge from that statement are: (a) I was overworked, and (b) it's Monica's fault. In essence, after Monica received a hastily-written e-mail with some unfortunate statements, Gaudio should NOT have written her post the next day, according to Griggs.

The sad truth is that Judith Griggs continues to blame others for her own actions. Based upon the word count from her two Statements, her apology is less important than blaming Facebook, Monica Gaudio, and the Internet mob for the predicament in which she placed herself. While Internet mobs can be ugly, part of the reason that the mob appeared in the first place was Griggs' initial and continued apparent lack of contrition.

Wikihow includes an article that discusses how to apologize. There are eleven steps in Wikihow's formulation, but a couple of them merit highlighting here:

2. Take full responsibility for the offense, without sharing the blame with anyone else, and without presenting mitigating circumstances. Admit that you were wrong emphatically, unreservedly, and immediately. An incomplete apology often feels more like an insult. An apology with an excuse is simply not an apology. It may very well be that other people or circumstances contributed to the situation, but you cannot apologize for them; you can only apologize for yourself, so leave them out of it.

3. Realize that there are no excuses. Do not try to think of or offer one. An apology with an excuse is not an apology. Take full responsibility for what you did. If the person to whom you apologize rejects your apology, then they do not deserve it. However, do not take it back. Be the bigger person.

And in conclusion, I can't let this post end without inserting this video.

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