The Richmond Times-Dispatch fired freelance dining critic Elliott Shaffner for plagiarism and deleted all of her reviews for the newspaper.
The plagiarism, unpublishing and firing was announced in a note to readers from executive editor Paige Mudd. What did Shaffner in was a July 28 review that lifted from Los Angeles Times‘ restaurant critic Jonathan Gold’s review for L.A. Weekly. iMediaEthics has contacted Mudd and Shaffner for more information.
Gold told iMediaEthics, the Times-Dispatch’s “Paige Mudd reached out to both me and L.A. Times food editor Amy Scattergood, who was also my editor at the L.A. Weekly when I wrote the article Ms. Shaffner apparently plagiarized. I haven’t heard from Ms. Shaffner personally, but her letter of apology in the Times Dispatch seemed both sincere and contrite.”
In her note to readers, Mudd explained to readers that portions of Shaffner’s July 28 article “appear to have been copied” from Gold’s 2011 review. “After further research, we discovered that other Times-Dispatch restaurant reviews by freelance writer Elliott Shaffner, our dining critic since the start of 2016, contain material that apparently was not original.” (iMediaEthics hasn’t been able to find a cache of the July 28 review, but if you have, let us know.)
Mudd apologized to readers and said the newspaper “unknowingly” published the plagiarism.
The Times-Dispatch also published an open letter from Shaffner admitting to and apologizing for the plagiarism, which she called a “senseless mistake.”
“There is no excuse but there is an explanation,” Shaffner wrote.
Shaffner said she didn’t intentionally plagiarize and didn’t “recognize what I was doing was plagiarism.”
“In a flurry of desperation, time management, lack of good judgment, I unwittingly put someone else’s words into work under my name,” Shaffner wrote.
After the Times-Dispatch‘s announcement of Shaffner’s plagiarism, Richmond alternative news site Style Weekly deleted nine reviews Shaffner wrote for that site as well, Eater.com reported.
Style Weekly published a note to its readers saying it found plagiarism in “at least two restaurant reviews in 2015” by Shaffner.
“We apologize to our readers and to the restaurants that were the subject of those reviews,” Style Weekly wrote. “The former reviewer, Elliott Shaffner, contributed nine restaurant reviews to Style in 2015, and we have pulled those from the website.”
Style Weekly pointed iMediaEthics to its Facebook thread on the matter, where it listed some side-by-side comparisons of the lifted work.
“STYLE WEEKLY REVIEW: But at this outpost of the Boathouse, the essential dish is the lobster roll ($29). We are talking about one entire lobster broken down into big chunks of chilled meat tossed with mayonnaise, lemon and tarragon, stuffed into a butter-toasted roll and sprinkled with minced chives. Is the mayonnaise Duke’s? Are they made with top-loading Pepperidge Farm hot dog buns? Get over it.
“JONATHAN GOLD: Now the essential dish is probably the lobster roll … big chunks of chilled lobster meat tossed with Duke’s mayonnaise and tarragon, stuffed into butter-toasted rolls and sprinkled with minced chives. Are they made with top-loading Pepperidge Farm hot dog buns? …Is the mayonnaise from South Carolina? Get over it.
“TIMES-DISPATCH REVIEW: Is there ever a wrong time for jjajangmyun? Its divine sauce — as thick and dark as blackstrap molasses, made up of black bean paste, pork and melted onions — is as delicious in July as it is in January. The chewy, hand-pulled noodles that complete the dish are pretty great, too. Deeply flavorful and lip-smackingly good ($5.99), jjajangmyun is probably the defining dish of Korean-Chinese cuisine.
“JONATHAN GOLD: Is there ever a wrong time for jajangmyun, or jjajangmyeon,chachiangmian or zha jiang mian? The divine crankcase sludge of black bean paste, meat and melted onions is as delicious in August as it is in December, and the hand-pulled noodles that traditionally complete the rest of the dish are not to be despised. Jajangmyun is probably the defining dish of Korean-Chinese cuisine…
“STYLE REVIEW: It is a cool night, and you have made it past the throng at the bar … A place serving up strong, unmodulated northern Thai cooking: fiery larbs, whole fish grilled into rude deliciousness, steaming bowls of earthy, spicy curry broths, sour basil pork sausages and other pungent drinking food from the streets of Bangkok.
“JONATHAN GOLD: It is a cool night, and you have made it past the throng at the bar. … Yenbamroong is cooking strong, unmodulated northern Thai dishes here: fiery nam priks, grilled pig collar, steamed blood cakes, sour sausages and other pungent drinking food from the countryside around Chiang Mai.
“TIMES-DISPATCH REVIEW: It’s hard to imagine visiting Noodles & Friends without at least one plate of the fried dumplings, more or less like wonton, whose job is as much to pick up the flavors of the chili-studded soy, sugar and garlic dipping sauce as it is to stand on their own as dumplings … .
“JONATHAN GOLD: It’s hard to imagine visiting Mian without at least one plate of the chaozhou, minced-pork dumplings, more or less like wonton, whose job is as much to pick up the flavors of hot-sour broth or red chile oil as it is to stand as dumplings on their own.
“TIMES-DISPATCH REVIEW: Hand-pulled noodles are immeasurably better than the machine-made kind: stretchy yet supple, irregularly shaped and veritable magnets for sauce…
“JONATHAN GOLD: Hand-pulled noodles are immeasurably better than the machine-made kind: stretchy yet supple, irregularly shaped, veritable magnets for sauce.”
Hat Tip: Andrew Beaujon
UPDATED: 7/31/2016 11:47 AM EST