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A restaurant critic in the US has lost her job after it was found that she had plagiarised work from the famous critic Jonathan Gold.
Elliott Shaffner was fired from her freelance role at the Richmond Times-Dispatch after it was shown that many of her weekly dining reviews were in fact lifted from the LA Weekly restaurant review section.
Shaffner’s reviews have since been removed from the company’s website, but Eater have managed to grab a screen shot of an archived extract which looks very similar to a 2009 paragraph from Jonathan Gold.
The paper said:
It was brought to our attention that a number of sections of this week’s dining review appear to have been copied from a 2011 'L.A. Weekly' restaurant 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.
Before taking the job as critic at Richmond Times-Dispatch she filed a number of reviews for Style Weekly – they say they have removed nine reviews posted by Shaffner posting examples of the plagiarism. It seems pretty blatant.
STYLE 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.
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.
In an open letter to all those involved, Shaffner said:
I want to explain. I want to apologize.
I want to apologize for letting you down. For losing your trust. For making a senseless mistake.
There is no excuse but there is an explanation.
I read every food writer’s words the minute they are available. I have alerts set on my phone and a computer letting me know which days and which publications have food reviews or food related-news and content coming out. As a major fan-girl of Jonathan Gold’s, I carry his book in my purse. It’s filled with notes and highlighted passages. I have lines, quotes, filling my notebooks of people’s words that I love and am inspired by.
It was not intentionally deceitful or steal-y. But I sent it into the world, it is my fault and I am mortified.
What I have to say is, that in a flurry of desperation, time management, lack of good judgment, I unwittingly put someone else’s words into work under my name.
Did I have malicious intent? No.
Did I even recognize what I was doing was plagarism? I did not.
But to see now, that I have taken words from one of the people I most respect hurts my soul.
Here I am now. Staring down the proverbial faces of those who trusted me to put credible words in their publications. I’m staring down restaurant owners, chefs and servers who went on whatever roller coaster ride of emotions, from elation to anger, from reading my words. If they were positive, those words are sadly, invalidated. If negative, irrelevant to begin with.
I’m staring down a city of readers I have greatly disappointed.
And I stare at the person whose words I used as my own.
This is the apology part.
I would like to apologize to everyone who has read these reviews. I apologize to the people who trusted me to write them. I apologize to every writer who may have to fight a little harder now for his or her reputation. And most importantly, I apologize to Jonathan Gold.
The dedication that the our local publications have shown to their readership and its credibility is something I have a great respect for. I humbly apologize for jeopardizing our city’s reputation and your, the readers, trust in me.
Gold hasn't repsonded directly, only posting a link to an article on the matter with the words, "this is fascinating".