Thinking about writing this post makes my stomach hurt. The things I found out yesterday morning have me sad and angry, but this is one case where -- drama or not -- I feel like I should talk about what's happening because even though I'm not directly involved, I do feel that as a YA blogger it affects many of us. A quick summary, for those of you who may be out of the loop:
Back in January, a couple of fashion bloggers noticed that a YA book blogger who had been visiting their site had quite a few posts that were remarkably similar to their own. Most of these posts were in the vein of blogging self-help stuff, like the importance of Klout and other helpful-to-bloggers posts. They contacted the blogger (Kristi, from The Story Siren) and the issue was handled privately. They didn't feel, for whatever reason, a need to make it public. Which is fine and was probably the right way to handle it at the time.
But now the blog Smart Bitches, Trashy Books has gotten the story and they are making it public, which I'm glad about. They have a fantastic post with a round up of relevant posts. READ IT.
Now, I've gone through and read all of the relevant posts from all bloggers involved, and at first I'll admit that I was... wary. Hesitant. One of the posts that was allegedly stolen is a post on the importance of Klout and, to be honest, many of the similarities I found between Kristi's post and the original post are similarities that I could easy imagine in any helpful post on the topic. They're just the topics that would naturally come up.
But I kept reading. I read about how the plagiarism was discovered, read the original posts and the screen shots of the (now deleted, at the request of the fashion bloggers) the screen shots from The Story Siren's posts. And, you guys, the evidence is... well, it's pretty damning actually. Though the posts aren't word-for-word the same, nearly every point that the fashion bloggers made was reiterated in Kristi's posts, so much so that I sat here shaking my head as I read. It was as if she used their posts as a template to "write" her own posts. And the story of how the theft was discovered is pretty amazing.
There's probably some, thought not much, overlap between the fashion blogging community and the book blogging community. The fact that this didn't come to light for months shows that, I think. And the fact that the fashion bloggers didn't make a bigger deal of it reflects, possibly, the fact that they aren't (or weren't, at least) aware of just how huge Kristi and her site are in the YA/book blogging world.
But as you probably know, The Story Siren is one of -- if not the -- most popular and certainly most respected YA blogs. At this point fellow book bloggers seem to be divided between those who (a) either don't believe Kristi plagiarized or are willing to overlook it, or (b) think what she did was very, very wrong.
Personally, I think ignoring the issue or saying that it's okay is a mistake. I'm definitely not advocating any sort of bullying or "mob mentality," but ignoring the issue, thinking that it's okay because it's been resolved between Kristi and the fashion bloggers, is wrong on a couple of different levels. It's a sort of quiet compliance with content-stealing. We're saying it's okay for one of the most respected creative blogs out there to be, at least partially, built on posts that were stolen from others. I think it's a huge conflict of interest for readers and authors to support a blogger who has spoken out against plagiarism while at the same time stealing content from others. I don't like to think that this sort of conduct is okay because the blogger in question is "popular" or "nice" or "has a big following." It breaks all kinds of blogging and writing ethics and honestly, it feels like a betrayal of not only those bloggers who look up to her as an example of what to do, but also (and more importantly) the many readers, authors, and publishers who support her blog in one way or another.
I'm not sure what happens from here. As of now, Kristi has made a statement regarding the entire debacle, but honestly it's so vague and non-commital that it doesn't seem to be much of an apology or an explanation. As a fellow book blogger what I was really hoping for was either an admission or denial, as well as a real explanation of how this came to be. You can read her statement here. As for me, I'm no longer going to be reading her blog or linking to her posts from my own blog as I've done occasionally in the past. In My Mailbox is one of my favorite community memes (hosted by The Story Siren), but I'm going to have to do some thinking on whether or not to even continue taking part in that. I do think everyone concerned or interested in this should look at the posts and decide for themselves whether the content is too similar to just be coincidence. (And once again, a link to the Smart Bitches post that has links to the other relevant posts, and then Kristi's statement.) (If you want the opinion of another blogger, WORD for Teens has a nice post up, and this post from Dear Author is well worth reading.)
ETA: Kristi has since posted a much better apology in which she admits what happened and clarifies her earlier apology -- I now have no problem continuing to participate in IMM though I still don't feel quite right about reading/linking to her blog in the future. It may not be fair, but in my opinion a certain amount of damage has already been done and can't quite be un-done.