Monday, April 23, 2012

Plagiarism: The Bomb Drops on YA's Biggest Blogger

A post from me that isn't a review? Shut the front door! (That line is shamelessly borrowed from Bad Teacher. It's been in my head all day.) But oh yes, it's true. And this is something that means a lot to me, so please join me for a small talk on what a very recent scandal involving a very popular YA blogger could mean for ants like me.

You may have noticed that I don't interact much with others. I have no personal or blog-related Twitter account and I have no blog-related Facebook page (my personal page is not linked here for privacy reasons). I really do love people, but I don't quite know how to work with them. Generally, I am unplugged from Reviewer World and don't learn about big stories on my own. I have to discover it through friends who are more active and better at it.

Today, I got on Goodreads like I normally do, Goodreads addict that I am, and I learned something shocking: one of YA's biggest bloggers is allegedly a plagiarist. Beautifully Invisible and Grit and Glamour posted about some activity one of them noticed. After doing some research and examining a number of visits from the same source for extended periods of time on days when the visitor posted blog entries similar to what they'd been looking at, the bloggers realized they'd been plagiarized.

As Grit and Glamour says, they contacted the alleged plagiarist. Emails were exchanged back and forth and the accused expressed hopes they would keep the matter private so what she'd built up over the past few years wouldn't be jeopardized and/or taken away from her. To keep from being accused of libel and to give her some privacy, the victimized parties did not out the blogger they feel plagiarized them.

I have no such qualms. The alleged plagiarist blogger is Kristi of The Story Siren. YA bloggers and authors are likely familiar with that name.

This news is just now spreading like wildfire, but look at those timestamps on the posts. January 31, 2012. I'm slightly well-versed in tech talk like IP addresses and such because I use StatCounter to keep track of visits on my site and I've taken quite a few tech classes myself. Based on the screenshots and data provided, I fully believe she plagiarized. I say "allegedly" only because I must. It seems to coincidental for me.

How did this get swept under the rug for three months? This is a huge deal because of how well-known Kristi is and what effects her alleged actions could have on the rest of the YA blogging community. I even dove into the rank abyss that I consider Twitter to be so I could see other reactions. Kristi even has her own hashtag: #StopTheStorySiren.

What message does this send to everyone else? If you get big in blogging and plagiarize other people for your pages, you'll get a slap on the wrist and little else? Everything on her blog is now suspect because of those four pages. She receives so many books for review and posts so much. Maybe she started borrowing from other reviews after seeing that taking bits from others' blog posts flew under the radar or didn't get called out.

That is what plagiarism does: it stains everything whether or not there was a stain in the first place.

In YA, I can't think of any blogger who is better known for her reviews than Kristi. Her In My Mailbox meme is one I have participated in myself a few times in the past and I have used her posts to learn how to acquire ARCs, write review requests, and more. I have a lot of personal opinions on Kristi's reviews and how she runs her blog, but that's not what this post is about.

What could this mean for YA bloggers? For the biggest one of all to take this kind of fall, it's going to have an effect on the rest. The relationship between YA authors and bloggers lately has been volatile and the peace is fragile. Something like this could act as ammo next time a fight starts up. Trust in the YA book blogger community could go down the toilet en masse on all sides. It may even strain the publisher-blogger relationships, which don't need any more strain on them than there already is.

I have never been plagiarized--as far as I know. I am thankful for this every day after seeing multiple friends of mine discover in December 2011 that their reviews were plagiarized by Gothical's Book Reviews. (There is no link to her because her blog and Goodreads account were shut down.) If you ever see some very familiar content and it looks like someone may have plagiarized me, please contact me. The two victimized bloggers also wrote handy guides for dealing with the plagiarism and it's not something I intend to take lying down.

As you can see, plagiarism really gets me fired up as an aspiring author, a reader, a good person, an honorable student, and someone who would like to one day work in the publishing industry. I start college in the fall and for all four years of high school, my teachers have made it clear how little colleges will tolerate such thievery.

So keep an eye out, everyone, and never steal someone else's words. We'll wait and see how the rest of this debacle plays out.

Supplementary links/other takes on this:

Smart Bitches, Trashy Books

As of press time, Kristi has not commented on any of this.

ETA: Kristi's response.

Personally, I think she's contradicting herself a little bit. "I made a mistake. I freely admit that" and "I would never do something like that. That is NOT me" don't match up very well, do they?

Now that I think about it, I could explicate the entire apology to show people all the ways you can tell the apology is fake and she is lying through her teeth about being sorry. I may just do that. It's extraordinary, all the double-speaking she manages to do in that one post.

ETA 2: Another apology post, this time called "Clarification." I find it no more sincere than her first response and could explicate it just as fully to show you why I feel that way. Funny how she doesn't apologize to the people she plagiarized from until the very end of her post. You'd think they would go first.

Take a look at her now-deleted post on plagiarism and then take another look at both her apologies. Hypocritical behavior at its finest.


  1. I've been plagiarised, only in small ways, in the past so I never called them up on it. This was before I started blogging, though. Anyway, what a great post!

    My problem with Kristi, right now, is that she did contradict herself, as you said. And the fact that she wanted to just sweep the whole issue under the rug, so to speak. I wouldn't be so hurt by this if she'd just owned up to it in the first place. I'm not going to use words like allegedly, because there's enough evidence behind what she'd been accused of. It's not a mistake that she somehow ended up with posts that were almost identical to that of some other bloggers. She very consciously made the decision to plagiarise, and she also very clearly defined the term when she posted about her anti-plagiarist beliefs.

    It was only an hour ago that I took my opinions further from Kristi in an individualistic sense, and thought about the YA blogging community. There seems to be neverending drama within our community, and it does hurt our reputation among the "general population", and we all know how THEY think of the YA industry as well as YA bloggers (remember the articles?).

    Just, yeah. Stealing is bad. It doesn't matter that it was a big-name blogger, and how big of readership is. She was in the wrong, there is no grey in here as far as I'm concerned. I'll just wait by the sidelines while this thing blows over. Haha. Or, I WOULD, if there was an "end" to this thing. Plagiarism will always be an ongoing issue, and it can be hard to track. Not to mention all the legal stuff flies right over my head. :P Shameful, considering how much teachers and professors drill into students' brains not to plagiarise.

    Sorry. It's 1:40 am here, and I really just needed to write how I was feeling. I didn't feel that a blog post on my blog would be adequate, so I shall contribute to the discussion by relaying much of what you said. As I said, 1:40 am.

    1. I'm sorry you had to go through that, Cass. Plagiarism really is the pits.

      Oh, I haven't even gotten started on all the ways her apologies contradict her and make how not-sorry she is clear. Her fauxpologies and denials and the issue involved have gotten me more fired up about this than I normally am about YA dramas (and I cared a lot in some of the past incidents seeing as the reviewers attacked by Dan Krokos, Kiera Cass/Elana Roth, and Leigh Fallon are all my friends).

      What she's done is bad enough, but how poorly she handled the situation has amplified everything tenfold. I agree that "allegedly" is hardly needed. She even made a post in the past (now deleted, of course) saying that the "inspiration" approach to plagiarism is still plagiarism. What a hypocrite!

      Unfortunately, there is a lot of drama. I think this is the first time in a while it didn't start with an author attacking someone. As one of my friends keeps saying, YA is experiencing the same growing pains the romance genre/reviewers went through in the 90s. In the midst of trying to find where we stand in the infinite Internet, problems will occur, but we'll find out plac.

      You don't need to say sorry for anything. You sound very intelligent and make valid points. As tired as I feel, it may as well be 1:40 AM for me too!

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