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The Cooks Source “apology”

I wrote about this issue last week when the story was breaking, and I’m going to give attention to the Cooks Source fiasco one more time.

The magazine has posted an undated, 879-word statement to its website in which it apologizes to author Monica Gaudio.

The apology doesn’t come until about 350 words into the statement, though. The first half is spent explaining that the magazine has deleted its Facebook profile and “cancelled its website” because of “hackers” and because their advertisers were getting lots of calls from Internet people.

Cooks Source will not be on Facebook again at any time in the future: hacking is too prevalent and apparently too easily performed by disreputable people. The email and Facebook abuse of our advertisers is the prime example: it is hurtful to people who are innocent of this issue, and can ill-afford the abuse — either emotionally or financially

Now, I can understand that it might be emotionally hard to deal with dozens of phone calls from people explaining what Cooks Source has done wrong, but how does this financially hurt the Cooks Source advertisers? They are paying money to advertise in the magazine. If anything, they’ll have more money in pocket if they stop advertising with the magazine, right?

But anyways

Cooks Source tells people how they can report the bogus Facebook accounts as abuse and provides Facebook’s corporate phone numbers. “Interestingly, this phone number and any other contact info is not listed on the Facebook site, and has taken four people a number of days to track down.” (I found the same numbers they did in 30 seconds via a Google search, but I’m what you call an advanced user of the Internet.)

Then, finally, after pointing out what everybody else has done wrong, Cooks Source gets down to talking about what their editors did wrong.

Last month an article, “American as Apple Pie — Isn’t,” was placed in error in Cooks Source, without the approval of the writer, Monica Gaudio. We sincerely wish to apologize to her for this error, it was an oversight of a small, overworked staff. We have made a donation at her request, to her chosen institution, the Columbia School of Journalism. In addition, a donation to the Western New England Food Bank, is being made in her name. It should be noted that Monica was given a clear credit for using her article within the publication, and has been paid in the way that she has requested to be paid.

The statement goes on to say that Cooks Source will, from now on, list all its sources and “request that all the articles and informational pieces will have been made with written consent of the writers, book publisher and/or their agents or distributors, chefs and business owners.”

Aren’t all articles made with permission of their writers? I think they mean to say that they’ll only publish articles with permission because the statement goes on to say that the magazine will require release forms to be signed before publishing something.

They can’t speak for their past writers though.

They continue with:

To say this has hurt our business is an understatement. But worse, it is harming the very people we are here to assist. Cooks Source’s is a small, free, local food newspaper-type magazine (called ‘magazine’ because it doesn’t generally include what is known as ‘news,’) whose mission statement is to assist small businesses and farms in our area and help readers learn about sustainable food issues. We promote small businesses and farms in our area, offer recipes because our readers request them, and because we are offered cookbooks and excerpts from distributors, publicists, agents and authors, non-profits, ag organizations, chefs and home cooks so as to help them promote their works. Cooks Source is so named because it reports on food sources: the farms, the bakers, the chefs and the foodie producers and purveyors– to the home and professional cooks and chefs in our area.

Translation: It’s really a shame that this all had to come out because we do so much good in the community, and all this ruckus has made it hard for us. We’re good guys! Yes, we had copyright issues in the past, but those were our past writers’ fault. All the Internet people are the evil abusers out to hurt small businesses and industries like the ones named here.

Spare me.

This semi-apology changes nothing. It’s tone says Cooks Source is the victim, when all the people whose copyrights the magazine violated should be its victims. Yes, the Internet response was wicked, often vile and occasionally mean, but that is the price the magazine pays for sitting in its office not saying anything for almost a week while their business was a trending topic on Twitter.

And let’s not forget that Cooks Source brought this on themselves with that snide e-mail to Gaudio (a message that goes unmentioned in the apology, by the way).

John Scalzi sums it up:

In all, I give this apology a D+, and that passing grade is entirely for compensating Ms. Gaudio as Ms. Gaudio requested. Otherwise, let’s not pretend that if the Internet hadn’t fallen on Ms. Griggs’ head, that even this grudging effort at an apology would exist. This is the apology of someone who is sorry she got caught, not the apology of someone who feels she has done wrong. And, well. She did do wrong, and she should have done better.