Yesterday we posted on some of the drama unfolding as the result of a blogger brand campaign for Chrysler. One of the key players in the controversy was Kristin Ruiz, who called on Ignite Social Media to disqualify fellow contestant Kristine Cook because of a post in which Kristine jokingly encourages her readers to vote from multiple computers. It seems that Ruiz herself is now on the other end of cheating accusations, but for reasons that are a bit more clear than questionable contest rules. It was recently discovered that Ruiz, who writes her own blog in addition to writing a pregnancy column for Babble, has been plagiarizing posts that popular blogger Amy Storch (@Amalah) had written at the Alpha Mom site.
Still defending herself against allegations of contest bullying, Lesney-Ruiz is accused of lifting content published in 2008 on the Alpha Mom website for publication on her own site Our Ordinary Life. After being hired earlier this year by blogging powerhouse Babble as a featured writer, Lesney-Ruiz was said to have re-posted three of these same posts. Lesney-Ruiz’s assignment at Babble was quite similar to the weekly posts Storch wrote for Alphamom’s pregnancy timeline. Allegations flew Monday morning when a fan of Amalah.com noticed a striking similarity to one of Lesney-Ruiz’s posts and forwarded it on to Storch. Upon further review, Storch ascertained that a few of Lesney-Ruiz’s posts were actually posts that she had written and published years before. Storch addressed the matter in an open letter this morning, stating:
The writing you stole was written about my second pregnancy. It is all very near and dear to me, and I am fiercely protective of it, as I’m sure you understand. What you did was like someone swiping your belly pics and was passing them off as their own: creepy, invasive and wrong. I imagine if that happened to you, you would waste no time in leading an Internet charge against that person, no matter what excuses they offered.
According to Babble staff, Lesney-Ruiz was immediately fired from Babble, and all posts in question were removed. In an exclusive statement to ShePosts, Babble editor Catherine Connors relates:
Yesterday afternoon it came to our attention that the writer cited here – a writer for our Being Pregnant blog – had plagiarized content from Amy Storch and Isabel Kallman, who are bloggers on our Babble Voices platform. This news was, obviously, upsetting to us, and we moved quickly to address it. We immediately removed the posts in question, and once we confirmed that they had, in fact, been plagiarized, we terminated the employment of the blogger responsible. We were fast and effusive in our apologies to Isabel and Amy, who we value so highly as members of the Babble community, and as friends.
ShePosts was able to obtain screen shots of a few of the posts in question. From Kristin’s personal site:
vs. Storch’s original post in 2008:
Similarly, a post on Kristin’s Babble blog from last year:
vs. Storch’s post describing the same stage of pregnancy several years prior at AlphaMom:
It is unclear as to whether Lesney-Ruiz has acknowledged her guilt. She declined to give us a comment but Storch’s post included the following quote from her:
I have been recently told that I have plagiarized your whole articles, and never intended to steal anything. I took some great lines and did not cite them, which was a big mistake. I am now just 27 and learning everyday as I grow how to avoid these mistakes in the future. I never meant to hurt anyone or steal from anyone.
The blogosphere contains a lot of recycled and repackaged information. All “mom bloggers” have a common denominator – we are parents. It’s the thread that ties us together and we often share similar stories and situations. So when content is similar, how does a writer make sure they are providing original, non-plagiarized content? Here are a few questions to ask yourself before hitting “publish”:
- If it’s a hot topic / current event, is YOUR point of view different from what others are saying? Basically, why are you feeling the need to write about it if it’s been written about before?
- If you are using a lot of information from other sources, are you quoting/linking back? And more importantly are you giving your readers a reason to actually click through back to the linked post?
- And even if you do link back, are you still using someone else’s “intellectual property” – their ideas and their concepts? Is it clear which information is gathered from other sources?
- And lastly, if the author of the other blog posts reads this post, how do you think they will feel about it? Will they feel that you added a point of view that they didn’t think about or will they feel that you just plagiarized their thoughts and content?
It’s worth remembering that the penalties for plagiarism can be severe. Print authors and journalists who are caught stealing others’ work have been on the receiving end of lawsuits and can usually forget about ever getting paid work again. Bloggers would do well to keep this in mind. This is also another good reminder for brands and bigger publishers to make sure they do a thorough background search of the bloggers they chose to work with.
“I think there are two lessons to take away from it all. 1. Brands need to make educated decisions about the bloggers they choose to work with, for the sake of both parties involved. 2. Bloggers need to be accountable for what they put out there. Whether it’s your behavior or writing, you need to own it if you intend to have any sort of respect within the community.”