Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Wednesday Wa Pic - Snobs R Us

 They could just as easily have stenciled the words "All those who would like their cars 'keyed' while they shop, here's your spot."

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© George Waters, The Wa Blog

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Plagiarist Jeffrey resigns, uses "Um, define 'plagiarism'" defense

Steve Jeffrey has resigned as editor of The Anchor, a day after my original post showing proof of his plagiarism of articles by multiple writers over the course of the last year. I wish I could say for sure it was my post yesterday which made him decide it was time to go, but I doubt he ever saw it.

“I really don’t have any way to defend myself," Jeffrey told the Calgary Herald in an e-mail, "I did use articles for inspiration, but thought that I had changed the content enough to comply," after which his pants inexplicably caught fire and his nose grew as long as a telephone wire.

The first part of the sentence was true, however. There was no defense. No defense at all against side by side comparisons of other writers' original work and columns showing his co-opting of the same text, with miniscule alterations, under his own name.
I asked my 5th grader if he would ever turn a paper in to his teacher that was 95-100% somebody else's writing. "Are you kidding me, dad?" he replied.

Ah, youth.

Here is hoping Mr. Jeffrey finds success in a field other than journalism. I actually mean that sincerely. With his flair for verbal "spin," may I suggest a new career in politics?

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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Have you no shame, sir?

"No, my pants aren't on fire," says Steve Jeffrey. "It's just a warm day."

Continued pressure was brought to bear on "Anchor" editor Steve Jeffrey after my column yesterday about his bold, blatant plagiarism of my writing and that of 13 other humor writers in the past year. 

The Telegram, a Newfoundland newspaper which has three writers among those 13, posted an in-depth story today which includes Jeffrey's comment that he "doesn't know" why the archive of 52 back issues of "The Anchor" suddenly went offline yesterday an hour after my links to them, clearly showing more than a dozen instances of his plagiarism, appeared.

If Steve Jeffrey had an employer, he would have been sent on his way already with a cardboard box full of family photos off his desk. But Jeffrey runs the paper. Best I can tell, he has no board of directors or a boss. A person of conscience, caught in so clear a violation of journalistic ethics, would resign.

If you were an editor and you were caught plagiarizing other writers, would you resign? Give me a number. Would you only resign if you were caught five times? Twenty? O.K., 40. Let's go 40. How about then? Give us a number, Mr. Jeffrey. Show us that conscience.

Since links to those archives have been removed from public view (which innocent people do, you know, when they want to clear the air), below I am posting three more examples from the backups I collected last week before breaking this story.

These are for any readers who did not think the two examples posted yesterday by writer Andrew Beaujon were damning enough.

Here is a link to my column, "Sick of standardized testing? Bubble THIS in," originally posted January 15, 2008. Click it, and it will open in a new window.

Then click below and compare my original to this clip of Jeffrey's column, which he printed in "The Anchor" on May 19, 2011:

Below is a link to a column by Laura B. Randolph from Ebony magazine, dated Dec. 1999: "The spirit of Crassness."

Click it open, then come back and compare it to Steve Jeffrey's rendition, "The night before Crassness" from Dec. 15, 2011. At the beginning he changes a few words, because Ms. Randolph's original clearly was written by a woman. But then it gets rolling on the straight-up copy-and-paste:

And how about a piece from Sheila Moss, from whom Mr. Jeffrey purloined 25 different columns. This one is called "The cat toy."

Compare that to Steve Jeffrey's version, "The Christmas cat toy," printed in "The Anchor" Dec. 29, 2011:

I know. I should probably have put up easier-to-read graphics, but you get the idea. 

In the Telegram interview I referenced earlier, Mr. Jeffrey said he "hasn’t copied anyone and that he's trying to 'figure it out.'" 

There are three copies above. Two copies on Poynter yesterday. Shall we go for 40? Give me a number, Mr. Jeffrey. Give me a number.
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Jeffrey resigned. Story here.

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Monday, March 26, 2012

Another serial plagiarist editor uncovered—O, Canada!

Normally, readers who visit this blog Monday morning find a new post making fun of manly hygiene products or a funny photo I've taken locally. But today, unfortunately, I have a more serious subject on my mind.

A few weeks ago, I read with disgust that humor/travel writer Dave Fox discovered an editor at a Midwestern newspaper, Jon Flatland, had been plagiarizing his writing and the writing of many other writers.

I write a weekly humor column myself, for several newspapers in Southern California. I also post it here on the "Wa" blog, and I got curious. So I did what Fox had done—I began to Google unique phrases from my own online columns to see if anyone had been plagiarizing me.

How does the saying go? Don't start looking if you are not prepared for what you might find?

In a bizarre repetition of Fox's discovery, I too found I had been plagiarized by an editor. In May 2011, Steve Jeffrey, the editor/publisher of a community weekly called "The Anchor" in Chestermere, Alberta, a suburb of Calgary, passed off my writing as his own. My column, but printed under his name and smiling photo.

Apparently we humor columnists are closet investigative journalists, because like Dave Fox, I began to dig deeper. 

"The Anchor" has online archives which go back a year. I searched 52 issues using the same process, and I discovered that I was not the only writer whose work Jeffrey was using under his own byline in his weekly column, "Sittin' in the Lighthouse." In all, I found 41 evidently plagiarized columns by 14 different humor writers in the past 12 months.

I say "evidently" only because I have not communicated with all 13 of the other writers yet, so I do not frankly know if they each sold their writing to Mr. Jeffrey with the understanding that, as part of the deal, he would be posting it under his own name and photo.

It seems, to be charitable, unlikely, however. I certainly made no such deal.

(To be entirely accurate, there were 42 instances when Jeffrey's "Lighthouse" column used content from sources not his own, not 41. But on June 23 and October 27 of 2011, for some reason, he printed the same co-opted column.) 

According to his bio, Jeffrey has been publishing "The Anchor" since 2000. I did not have access to "The Anchor" print archives prior to March 2011, so I do not know whether this evident plagiarism jag began suddenly last March or existed before. 

But wasn't it Sigmund Freud, or Dr. Laura, who said "The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior"? I am not speculating, mind you. Forty-two smoking guns is enough for this cowboy.

I did not contact Mr. Jeffrey to ask him how my column, "Sick of standardized Testing? Bubble THIS in," ended up printed under his name and photo in "The Anchor" on May 19, 2011. 

I did not contact him to ask why 25 of my friend Sheila Moss's columns ended up under his name and photo in "The Anchor." Or the columns of 12 other humor writers who range geographically from Newfoundland to Australia.
Perhaps someone in the media who is, unlike me, an actual investigative journalist will ask him that.

The most bizarre thing to me is that an editor would be unwilling to pay the $10-20 most humor columnists would charge a publication of this size (10,000 circulation) for a column. 

I cannot understand how Mr. Jeffrey came to conclude that that was money worth saving.

My wife teaches high school English. When one of her students is caught plagiarizing, he is given a stern warning about ethics and the concept of "original thought." If that same student is caught a second time, he is dropped from the class cold, with an "F" on his permanent record. 

I have to wonder what punishment somebody who plagiarizes 42 times deserves.

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Below are just a few sample paragraphs comparing the original material by my fellow humor writers and the material appearing in "The Anchor" in the past year.

[Update: this column was posted at 6 a.m. Pacific on March 26, 2012. The "Anchor" back issue archives, which are linked below, were removed from public view around 7 a.m. I have, of course, backup copies on file.—George]

Original column from me, here at The Wa Blog, "Sick of standardized testing? Bubble THIS in," posted originally Jan. 15, 2008:
"My kids, before their schooling is done and they begin their inevitable careers as underpaid but highly esteemed bloggers, will have endured, at a minimum, the STAR test, CAT/6, SAT, CAHSEE, and quite possibly the TACHS, COOP, SSAT, ISEE, SHSAT, the FAB 4 and the Dave Clark 5."

From Steve Jeffrey's "Sittin' in the Lighthouse" column in "The Anchor," May 19, 2011:

"My kids, before their schooling is done and they begin their inevitable careers as underpaid but highly esteemed bloggers, will have endured, at a minimum, the STAR test, CAT/6, SAT, CAHSEE, and quite possibly the TACHS, COOP, SSAT, ISEE, SHSAT, the FAB 4 and the Dave Clark 5."
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Original column from Sheila Moss,, "OED Says OMG, FYI, LOL OK," copyright 2011:

From Steve Jeffrey's "Sittin' in the Lighthouse" column in "The Anchor," March 31, 2011:

"We tweet on Twitter, but tweets are tweets, not twits, which are still very foolish people. Of course, that could all change the next time the OED is updated. Maybe FYI, OMG, and LOL are not so bad after all."
. . .

Although those examples are from 2011, this is not something which stopped awhile back. Readers of last Thursday's (March 22, 2012) "Anchor" will discover the text of Sheila Moss's column "It's a social media world" in Mr. Jeffrey's "Lighthouse" column.

I will not post all 42 links here for comparison. Each one is basically as similar as the three above, although Jeffrey did occasionally change a few words in some columns to make certain references local to Canada and the like. 

But just so you know I am not making that number, 42, up—last week, anticipating that the links to the archive of back "Anchor" issues might not be up long after this story appeared, I sent the list of comparison links to Andrew Beaujon at

I wanted a pair of independent, professional-journalist eyes to verify my findings. (See Poynter today for Andrew's own article on this topic.) 

But here, at least for as long as the links are still live, are comparisons between content from the other 11 writers involved and content from "Sittin' in the Lighthouse" in "The Anchor" over the last year:

[Update: this column was posted at 6 a.m. Pacific on March 26, 2012. The "Anchor" back issue archives, which are linked below, were removed from public view around 7 a.m. I have, of course, backup copies on file.—George]

Russell Wangersky: "Gone fishin,'" The Telegram (St. John's, Newfoundland),  July 5, 2008:

Steve Jeffrey's version, June 9, 2011:

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Man Martin,, "Home Repair":

Steve Jeffrey's version, June 16, 2011:

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Joe Lavin, "Step away from the Internet,", Sept. 13, 2005:

Steve Jeffrey's version, June 23, 2011:

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John Brock, "Blue tooth technology enters my limited world of modernity," The Southern Observer, January 9, 2008:

Steve Jeffrey's version, June 30, 2011:

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John Martin, "Rebel with a pause,", Sept. 10, 2002:

Steve Jeffrey's version, July 7, 2011:

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Jason Love, "So it goes - driving," Foolish Times, June 1, 2009:

Steve Jeffrey's version, July 14, 2011:

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Erik Deckers, "Which part of No don't you understand?" Laughing Stalk, 2003:

Steve Jeffrey's version, August 25, 2011:

(Poor Erik. He was already plagiarized by Jon Flatland, and now this. I guess this is what you call, um, "broad appeal"?)

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Ed Smith, "One born every minute," The Telegram (St. John's, Newfoundland), July 19, 2008:

Steve Jeffrey's version, Sept. 1, 2011:

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Laura B. Randolph, "The spirit of crassness," Ebony magazine, Jan. 1995

Steve Jeffrey's version, Dec. 15, 2011:

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Daron Williams, The Collegiate Times (Virginia Tech), "Dare to wish someone a Merry Christmas," Dec. 8, 2008:

Steve Jeffrey's version, Dec. 22, 2011:

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Bill Westcott, NL News, "Long live our weekly and monthly newspapers," March 4, 2008:

Steve Jeffrey's version, Jan. 19, 2012:

. . .

Several friends have suggested I should be flattered that somebody considered my writing worth stealing. It's a joke. I get it. But here's the thing—usually after an editor publishes the writing I spent days crafting, writing that is printed with my own name on it, he pays me. 

That is really all the flattery I need.

George Waters

Sheila Moss responds to the theft of 25 of her columns.

Then this saga continues here.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Wednesday Wa Pic - checkout me

I love that the supermarket's computer has a name for me when I scan my own items. In fact, I insist that "Self" be my new nickname. I may even change the name of this site to "The Self Blog." I bet I could corral mega subscribers. This is huge. Thanks, Vons.

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© George Waters, The Wa Blog

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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Wednesday Wa Pic - Brown Bag Mi Amor

Funny, I used to use the same description in my singles ads.

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© George Waters, The Wa Blog

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Sunday, March 4, 2012

Macho men deserve macho products

If you think the most blatant retail manifestation of masculine aggression is found in video games, take a walk down the deodorant aisle. It is no accident the word "Axe" is used to sell after-shave, because men love nothing better than a) sharp objects and b) things with which they can whack other things.

(Brand names which Unilever tested and rejected before settling on "Axe" include "Gat" and "Shiv.")

Violence as a selling tool is a pretty blunt instrument, and so for men predictably effective. Axe has a style of deodorant called "Anarchy," which I guess is for when civilization as we know it crumbles but you still want to smell nice.

A brand called "Every Man Jack" brings to mind hand to hand combat on the deck of a rough ship, but its body wash's masculine message is somewhat undercut by the ingredient list, which includes "coconut-derived surfactants."

DIAL has a men's body wash called "Full Force," with actual molded plastic hand grips on the bottle, which sent me into such a macho mindspace that when I read the directions ("Lather up") I thought they said "Leather up," which would not be a bad brand name either. It could compete with Old Spice's "Swagger" and "Danger Zone."

I never considered the arm pit a danger zone, but perhaps the Israelis have figured out a way to kill with it, and have passed their secrets on to Procter & Gamble. 

Degree has an "Adrenaline series" of products, because hey, nothing gets a man's blood pumping like caulking his pits.

Speed Stick (a brand whose antiquated racing reference borders on charming) has a deodorant called "Energy Surge," which inexplicably contains no caffeine, but perhaps its C12-15 alkyl benzoate really gets you going.

Dove, as you might expect given its pacifist symbolism, attempts to compete with the bruisers above with a deodorant called vaguely, "Aqua Impact." Perhaps a little less olive branch and a little more market research, people.

A fluffy body scrubber cannot be called that in the men's aisle. There it is touted as (I kid you not) a "shower tool" or, in a nod to the manly automotive world, a "detailer."

I have never seen tweezers sold in the men's aisle, but if they were, I have no doubt one brand would be called "The Extractor."

You want to sell to a man, you have to think like a man. That's what they call a no-brainer.

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