“How Not To Apologize” by Cook’s Source Editor Judith Griggs

Not many of you chose to read about the “Cook’s Source” fiasco, which is a shame. It is admittedly a tiny blip on the ethics radar screen–a dispute between a writer and a narrow audience website that launched an Internet vigilante movement—but there are many useful lessons to be learned. Now one of the two key figures, “Cook’s Source” editor Judith Griggs, has generously provided us with yet another: how not to apologize.

Griggs, as the earlier post described, took an online article written by Monica Gaudio without her permission, and when she complained, sent her an obnoxious e-mail criticizing the essay, saying that Gaudio should be grateful for her editing job, and telling her, in essence, to take a hike. Gaudio published the e-mail on her blog, unleashing the fury of a multitude of cyber-avengers, who via Faceebook, Twitter, blog posts and other means, forced the “Cook’s Source” website and Facebook page to cease publication, save for Griggs’ announcement of the capitulation.

Now that has been replaced by a stunning attempt at justification and avoidance of accountability by Griggs that simultaneously apologizes to Gaudio while making the case that the whole mess is really her fault.

Some low-lights (underscoring is mine):

Excuses and blame-shifting: “The problem is that I have been so overworked and stretched that when this woman — Monica — contacted me, I was on deadline and traveling at the rate of 200 mile a day for that week (over 900 in total for that week), which I actually told her, along with a few other “nice” things, which she hasn’t written about.

Blame the victim and rationalizations: “I was stupid to even answer her that night, her email to me was antagonistic and just plain rude and I was exhausted. But I got suckered in and responded. She doesn’t say that she was rude, she doesn’t say that I agreed (and did) to pay her. It was my plan to contact her after deadline and have a good discussion about it….I do not offer this as an excuse, but that, when she wanted money for Columbia University, it seemed ironic because there were all these people in this small town going into the holidays with no jobs, and no, well, nothingI really wish she had given me a chance to respond to her before blasting me. She really never gave me a chance.”

Blame everybody else: “Since then, we have had so much hate email (over 400 pieces) , phone calls and regular mail. My advertisers too, have been so harassed that it has all muddied up the waters as to what the real situation is. I took the site down because someone threatened to go to all the distribution spots and destroy the new issue, also to protect my advertisers.
Facebook has not responded at all; not taken these advertisers name off this bogus site — or remove the site completely — and takes no responsibility that someone unnamed can just create a page that can suggest that people — and I am sure that in real walking-around reality you are all really nice people — that people should email total innocent strangers and harass them to death.  Honestly, some of you have been pretty mean….”

Rationalization and unfair innuendo: “… If my apology to Monica seemed shallow it was because I was angry about the harm she has inflicted on others on behalf of her own agenda.”

Obvious insincerity; more invalid justification: “… So let me say this now: Monica I am so sorry for any harm I caused you. I never ment to hurt anyone, and I think I did a nice job for you, but the fact remains that I took this without asking you and that was so very wrong. Please find it in you heart to forgive me…”

Refusal to admit responsibility for wrongdoing: “This is how it happened: When putting together a magazine, a publishing firm usually has a staff of many, a stable of writers and proofreaders. Cooks Source doesn’t, it is just us two…and believe me we would if we could use more help. Consequently I do much, have a few stalwart writers who love to write (for free) and a number of publishers and book agents who send me A LOT of books, recipes, press releases, etc — I received one even today.  In the past I have also assisted budding writers with their writing skills and given them a portfolio piece they can get jobs with, from magazines and newspapers that will pay them….But one night when working yet another 12 hour day late into the night, I was short one article… Instead of picking up one of the multitude of books sent to me and typing it, I got lazy and went to the www and “found” something. Bleary-eyed I didn’t notice it was copy written and reordered some of it. I did keep the author’s name on it rather than outright “stealing” it, and it was my intention to contact the author, but I simply forgot, between proofreading, deliveries, exhaustion.

Again, blame the one you wronged and avoid accountability and responsibility: “…The bad news is that this is probably the final straw for Cooks Source. We have never been a great money-maker even with all the good we do for businesses. Having a black mark wont help…and now, our black mark will become our shroud… Thank you to all our readers, thanks to all our advertisers and writers… and to everyone who has been supportive and who has been a part of Cooks Source. To one writer in particular, Monica Gaudio, I wish you had given me a chance.”

Griggs has had many chances, in fact, to take full responsibility, stop making excuses, and apologize without simultaneously attacking the woman whose work she stole and who she insulted in the bargain. She missed them all.

[Hat tip to Jeff, a.k.a. King Kool, for flagging the new post.]

11 thoughts on ““How Not To Apologize” by Cook’s Source Editor Judith Griggs

  1. Pingback: Judith Griggs of Cooks Source Is Bad At Apologizing | Popehat

  2. One of the first and best things I learned from my parents was: When you make a mistake, own up to it. Don’t make excuses. Your honesty will eventually be rewarded, and the negative impact of your mistake will be much less if you are straightforward about it.

    This has served me well throughout my life. In my professional life especially, even before I read Marshall’s list of rationalizations, I was astounded by the response when my (rare– smile) mistake was reported honestly and fairly, and my superiors immediately helped me set out to fix it.

    Griggs’s list is both hilarious and pathological. And in other venues, all too common. She has everything but the Twinkie defense (or then again, maybe she does). She should be out of business. She could have done quite well if only had given simple attribution to the authors. They still fire people for lying on resumes, don’t they?

    This is a great case that proves that Internet users and readers need to police themselves. (And a whole lot more diligently than do the medical profession, the legal profession, the accounting profession, among others — all of whom have actual rules they are supposed to follow.

    This is the people’s press. We have to protect it the best we can.

  3. Pingback: Friday Links: Speedflying Edition

  4. Nice work. Can you send this to our president, Pelosi, Reid, and the beastly butch troll in charge of the TSA? I believe they could benefit from this lesson even more than poor ole lady Griggs, who – dontchaknow, was just emulating her bitters.

    • I hope you mean “betters.” Then again…”bitters” works too.

      Here’s a deal: help me get enough traffic for my little ethics blog that ANYONE with any influence pays attention to it, and maybe we’ll have a breakthrough.

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