Friends and readers, I come to you today with a legitimate ethical question that I would love opinions on.
As I’ve mentioned before, I love this blog. I love writing. I have a great stream of traffic and could probably make money off this blog if I tried. I’ve never chosen to go that route because I write for the love of the craft. Also, I’m a lazy heifer who’s easily confused by businessy stuffs.
Anyway, last year I had a freaking blast writing The Hater’s Guide to Daniel Tiger. I was #blessed with a lot of fantastic and hilarious feedback on it, including from the writer of the show herself. (Which was simultaneously flattering and mortifying.) The other day I stumbled on this piece: Why Your Children’s Television Program Sucks: Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. The blog is part of the Gawker publishing family, a $45 million company.
I was excited! DT snark makes my heart sing. I settled in for some hilarity. As I started reading, I got a sick feeling in my stomach. By the end, the sick feeling had evolved into the kind of rage you can’t soothe away with a Daniel jingle about counting to 4. While nothing was copied word for word, it was obvious the author had partially relied on my piece to write her own.
I calmly emailed the editor, introducing myself and linking to both pieces. I expected some kind of grand response involving remorse! Embarrassment! Punishment! I was told they didn’t see a problem. The kind of “broad similarities” to be expected when two people “independently” write about the same thing.
I am seething. I am in the middle of a huge personal hissy fit. While this is not a glaring, egregious act of cut and paste plagiarism, there IS an issue if you look. It’s true that a lot of my material was untouched, and a lot of her material was original, but if we were to be eighth graders for a minute and put both into a Venn diagram, there would be a definite shady overlap. THERE IS EVEN AN APPROPRIATE JINGLE FROM DANIEL TIGER: In some ways we are different/but in so many ways we are the same. LOL sob.
People, here is what I am asking. I really need to illustrate this entire thing with a side-by-side comparison. Could you read this and tell me HONESTLY if A) you agree there is a serious issue here or B) you think the issue is minor or nonexistent and I need to let this go.
Now, the case is really not very strong when you look individually at the offenses. Look collectively at them though, and I think it’s obvious and disgusting. There’s also a smoking gun moment that just takes any possibility of coincidence off the table, so please bear with me til the end if you can.
I’ll put my stuff on top, and then hers:
First off, out of 59 DT episodes all focusing on various crises in Daniel’s life, how did we mention the same ones? ALSO– and seriously SERIOUSLY please find me and hit me with a large piece of lawn maintenance equipment for knowing this much about Daniel Tiger– but in no episode does he break his watch. He loses his watch because his room is so messy he can’t find it. So this was either a copying error, or an accidentally incriminating attempt to slightly change wording.
Minor, yes, but so much side eye. Please stick with me.
Well we love to snark, but the reason why they love vegetables and vegetable soup is just because the show has a hilarious nutrition agenda. To illustrate this, you could also mention:
- Their equal love for oatmeal.
- They order soup and salad from the neighborhood restaurant.
- They eat effing fruit kebabs for every special occasion, including Thanksgiving.
- Daniel and his dad go to the market for vegetables, Daniel sobs for cookies, his father shuts him the eff down.
- The neighborhood exchanges stickers for trick or treat.
- They eat spiraled vegetables instead of spaghetti noodles like a bunch of paleo freaks.
- They eat frozen, pureed banana for desert.
- SWEET JESUS YOLO JUST LET THE POOR CHILD HAVE SOME SUGAR
But she mentioned the exact observation as I did. And again go to Lowes right now and get the biggest rotary tiller you can find and bludgeon me with it until I unlearn this pathetic and vast amount of information I have accumulated about Daniel Tiger.
Well there’s not much substance on Mom Tiger beyond this, but again, my exact observations. Another fact to nitpick: Daniel has never cried about nap time. I know this because I have prayed to the Gods of PBS to send me a nap episode. My child is the most belligerent napper in the continental United States. But with fifteen minutes of gentle musical guidance from that animated feline, he would be out with the force of 14 Lunestas.
Different wording, same observation.
I’m only offended by this because it’s just hilariously factually inaccurate! Girrrrrrrrl if you think O the Owl “isn’t constantly having emotional breakdowns” then you don’t watch this show. (And for that I commend you, trust me.) O makes Daniel look like the picture of emotional resilience. Daniel is George Patton compared to O. Just more evidence that she is not writing from subject knowledge.
This to me is what clinches it. Maybe you could write everything else off as a big fluke, but there’s no way we’d coincidentally quote the same dialogue snippet. (There’s syntactic similarity in the preceding sentences too.) I mean, we’re talking about an entire TV show’s worth of possible dialogue to quote. And that is the entire joke we are making: THOSE MEOWING CATS NEVER STFU. This proves she definitely saw my post and from there, used it to cut corners instead of creating fully original content.
This is the one and only time we both reference something off-topic: Elmo. I know Elmo is like a ubiquitous deity for toddlers and preschoolers, but again, looking at everything together I don’t find this a coincidence. This is the one observation she offers under the heading “Pros”– a huge umbrella prompt that you could respond to with almost anything.
I am just so angry. I know this isn’t the worst case of plagiarism ever, but this person used my work as a short cut instead of writing her own. Even if she just kinda used my work a little, she and Gawker COMMERCIALLY BENEFITED FROM IT. Any level of that is unacceptable to me. I mean, we’re talking about a $45 million company TAKING from a not-for-profit amateur. AND blowing me off when I respectfully brought it to their attention.
Thank you so much for reading. I appreciate all of you. I would love to hear any opinions you care to share.
Edit: Update here.