'Cooks Source' Update: Magazine (Sort Of) Issues Weirdest Semi-Apology Ever Cooks Source magazine has been under fire, to say the least. At last, a statement has appeared on its web site.
NPR logo 'Cooks Source' Update: Magazine (Sort Of) Issues Weirdest Semi-Apology Ever

'Cooks Source' Update: Magazine (Sort Of) Issues Weirdest Semi-Apology Ever

a pie

The official page of Cooks Source -- where the pie/copyright scandal of 2010 went down last week -- now shows a statement.

In the statement, the unnamed voice of the magazine says that they haven't been running their Facebook page since last Thursday evening, and has since been "hacked by unknown parties." (That would mean, if true, that certain postings claiming to be from the magazine or its representatives weren't.) It further says that they "canceled [their] website" because it listed their advertisers, who were being "harassed." (Presumably, by "canceled" they mean "took down and replaced with this statement.")

But the meat of the statement comes in a very strange semi-apology offered for the magazine's alleged past practice of lifting articles from other sources without permission. The Cooks Source Control Voice, whoever it may be (let's call it CSCV) begins by stating that copying Monica Gaudio's recipe and using it without her permission was "an oversight by a small, overworked staff." On that basis, it offers her an apology. How this "oversight" occurred is not explained further, but CSCV says that the donation Gaudio requested to the Columbia School Of Journalism has now been made.

Then, CSCV addresses the broader issue of its apparently pervasive use of material taken from online sources without permission or notice. It states: "Starting with this month, we will now list all sources. Also we now request that all the articles and informational pieces will have been made with written consent of the writers, the book publishers and/or their agents or distributors, chefs and business owners." That seems like a good start.

It goes on later to say, "Cooks Source can not vouch for all the writers we have used in the past, and in the future can only check to a certain extent. Therefore, we will no longer accept unrequested articles, nor will we work with writers or illustrators unless they can prove they are reputable people, provide their sources, and who, in our estimation, we feel our readers and advertisers can trust and rely on for accuracy and originality. All sources will be listed with the articles, along with the permission, where necessary."

It certainly appears, based on the claim that they can't "vouch for all the writers" whose work appeared in the magazine in the past, that Cooks Source takes the position that the writers are somehow to blame for disreputably ... submitting their work? Or something? Then there's that reference to a limited ability to "check" things, so it's not clear whether they feel like they copy whatever they want, but sometimes can't "check" that permissions have been obtained, or what.

In all honesty, it's probably a fool's errand to try too hard to parse this statement and find a coherent response to the matter at hand. It's fair to say that aside from admitting to some sort of sweaty-browed oversight involving Gaudio specifically, Cooks Source admits to no fault, but presents itself as the victim of a lot of "disreputable people," both on Facebook and perhaps with regard to how it wound up seeming to have taken content from the Internet and reprinting it without permission.

So if you were expecting a giant, reputation-rehabilitating mea culpa from Cooks Source, in which it said, "We have learned a huge lesson from this, we were under a total misapprehension about rights in the digital age, and we will go forth and sin no more," you will not see it. You will also not see hands thrown in the air, as in, "We are done, we have finished ourselves off, and we quit."

It actually sounds a lot like the e-mail Gaudio got in the first place: defiant, sure of its correctness, and, in the end, kind of baffling.