If you are one of many who has spread the Twitter flames, signed an online petition or joined a Facebook group to hate on Cooks Source, congratulations. You proved the power of the Internet mob. In a post today, Judith Griggs apologizes (again) and tells everyone that this scandal and the harassing of advertisers has most likely killed the magazine.
If you are one of the few Web-heads who has no clue what I’m talking about, here’s the gist: An editor of an obscure food-related publication reprinted an article from a journalism student without permission, editing it first. When the student, Monica, reached out to the editor, Griggs wrote back a sarcastic email saying that she helped the poorly written article with her edit and that it was Cooks Source that should be compensated. Monica went public and a mob ensued that included even Drunk Hulk weighing in. As she should, as a writer trying to earn a living who had her work stolen and had a beyond inappropriate response to a private complaint about it.
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.
Mobs are a part of reality on the Internet, so this isn’t a post meant to exhort people to think before they flame someone, or imagine how they would feel getting ugly hate mail and death threats. Being the subject of several Internet mobs myself, I know how horrible it is. Many of us at TechCrunch do.
But guess what? Most mobs don’t actually cause people to lose jobs and businesses to be run under. (I mean, read the TechCrunch comments on any given post for evidence of that. And that’s after heavy moderation.) Most people are smart enough to realize anonymous mobs are mostly made up of cowards, haters and people miserable with their own lives looking for a bandwagon.
But click through and read that post by Griggs. If you don’t experience an ounce of empathy there’s something wrong with you. 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.