Dear WHUR and Richard Montgomery, Stop Stealing Content From Me and Others
Last week, I wrote about the Fire and Fainting Challenge that is all the rave with some of the teens of America now for my column at The Grio. I posted my week’s writing recap here and this morning, someone commented telling me they searched for the fainting game on Google and ran across an article that sounded really close to mine.
I click the link and end up on WHUR FM’s website and I read it with fumes coming out my ears. I was at home like this:
WHUR is Howard University’s radio station, and their “writer” named Richard Montgomery had basically copied and pasted entire paragraphs from my piece, posted it with few of his and TADA!!! Insta-post.
So I am here to write a very deserved sternly-worded letter (it’s been a while) to the staff at WHUR and to Richard Montgomery himself.
You have failed successfully at your job and you have failed at journalism. Hell, you have failed at blogging and you have failed at everything you are supposed to do: provide original content.
First of all, the simple lesson of “don’t take what is not yours” seems to have missed you. Did you skip that week in Kindergarten when you had chicken pox? Did you miss Dora the Explorer’s “Swiper no swiping” warnings? What happened?
What is fascinating is how blatant and bold the plagiarism on this site was. It’s like journalistic ethics called off for work and quit the week after it came back from vacation. Richard’s plagiarism was so flagrant and ballsy that I had to ask myself when my check from WHUR was coming. Surely, the gods of PayPal and Google Wallet were going to descend upon me and bless me with some offerings. But nay.
My words were taken and money was out of my pocket as a result. Why? Because people search for what I wrote and the post from the word klepto you’ve employed might come up higher. They’re profiting off the pageviews that came from words that wasn’t from them. Writers write. This is our bread, butter and jam. So taking a writer’s words without credit is to steal from our mouths. I got shoes to buy, people!
Richard Montgomery swiped my words (more than once. He also used paragraphs from a post I wrote about Jamal Bryant) but he stole from others too. My readers (who I love), found that he’s also taken from places like Forbes and Huffington Post. Does the dude know how to write anything original besides his name? Judging from what I see, he is unable to original. He is pioneer-deficient. He probably drinks Diet Coke because he doesn’t like the taste of the original one.
AND HE SHOULD KNOW BETTER! Richard “The Etymology Embezzler” Montgomery is not some 18-year old freshman intern who slipped up. He is a
liar and a cheat grown man who has worked for WHUR for over 2 decades (according to LinkedIn). Even if he wasn’t working as a journalist, apparently, he was a brand manager. How do you manage brands without knowing about Intellectual Property rights and laws? He’s too grown to not know better so why isn’t he doing better? My guess is because he doesn’t feel that he needs to. Not for WHUR, anyway.
Folks dug even deeper and found that MANY posts on WHUR’s website (even those not written by Montgomery the Word Mugger) were stolen from elsewhere (sometimes in full) with no attribution. WHUR’s website is full of swindle, with no linkbacks, no “here’s where it’s from.” For SHAME!
When I raised hell about my post being plagiarized on Twitter, you quietly “fixed” it by appending an intro paragraph to the piece that mentioned my name, and a lazy link at the bottom talmbout from “TheGriot” (because who needs to spell the name of the publication right?). No official retraction, no apology and no direct contact to me. That’s not how this goes!
WHUR, you should be embarrassed. You are attached to an institution of higher learning. If you can’t do better, who can?
As a media company, you should not tolerate plagiarism. But it seems not only do you let it slide, you might even encourage it because your site is littered with content taken from elsewhere. This is bigger than Richard the Word Bandit. This is about WHUR creating a space where employees feel comfortable about being wrong and STRONG in their duties. This is about the attitude that plagiarizing is ok as long as you get away with it. This is about the disrespect of others’ ideas, work and intellectual property. This is about WHUR hosting stolen content so they’re aiding and abedding the perpetuation of bullshit practices that some want to call journalism.
WHUR is not the only one on the hook here. This message is to everyone. BuzzFeed just fired one of their editors for plagiarism. Folks outchea thinking it’s a game. You can’t be Milli Vanilling this words thing!
There are very few things that grind my gears as much as the theft of intellectual property. I wrote a post on my tech blog on a Guide to Intellectual Property, Copyrights and Trademarks for Blogs, Businesses and Brands 2 weeks ago. Read that.
What I want? An apology from WHURfm and promise to never use my words on their site. I don’t even want them to quote me (because I’m petty). And a promise to stop copying and pasting words from all over the web without proper attribution. This isn’t just about MY words. This is a pattern that needs to stop, and even if they didn’t know their writers were plagiarizing like non-champs, now that they know, what will they do about it? Richard Montgomery himself owes me an apology for being a fraudulent twerp.
If people keep doing things like this, they should know that their road to prosperity will be littered by the edges we snatch off them.
In summary: KNOW BETTER and DO BETTER! It doesn’t cost you to give props to people. Your internet bill doesn’t go up because you say “Here’s where I got this from.” Your blood pressure won’t be affected from paying #AMISH. Get it ALL the way together!
Imitation is not the sincerest form of flattery. It is the inability to be original and it is disrespectful and cowardly. I am never flattered by people who steal my words because people steal trash too. I want it to stop.
Update: WHUR has taken down the post on the Fire and Fainting challenge but they still have others up that are plagiarized. Basically, they put a bandaid on the knee of someone with a broken leg. Mind you, they still haven’t contacted ME. Aight.
Update #2 at 7:50pm 8/4/14: Richard Montgomery apologized to me on Twitter. Meanwhile, WHUR itself has been mute.
Update #3 at 10:30am 8/5/14: WHUR’s General Manager (Jim Watkins) sent me an email apology. Also, all of Richard’s posts have been removed from the website.