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Restaurant Critic Canned After Plagiarizing LA Food Critic Jonathan Gold

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The ultimate no-no

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A restaurant critic in Richmond, Virginia has been dismissed for plagiarism. In a letter to its readers, the Richmond Times-Dispatch’s executive editor Paige Mudd wrote that freelance writer Elliott Shaffner had apparently copied “a number of sections of this week’s dining review” from an L.A. Weekly restaurant review.

After realizing that Shaffner’s most recent review contained work that was not her own, the Times-Dispatch investigated further and found that wasn’t the critic’s only instance of plagiarism. The Times-Dispatch has since scrubbed its site of all of Shaffner’s work, but a look at one of her recent reviews (archived on the internet) indeed reveals striking similarities to a 2009 L.A. Weekly story.

From the July 20, 2016 Richmond Times-Dispatch, a review by Shaffner:

Richmond Times-Dispatch

And from L.A. Weekly’s 2009 story, “Jonathan Gold's 99 Essential L.A. Restaurants”:

L.A. Weekly

Of course, plagiarism is an egregious offense in any field of journalism, but it seems especially heinous in the review world — after all, reviews are meant to be based on singular experiences and opinion and not, you know, on someone else’s dining experience five years ago at a completely different restaurant.

Update: July 29, 3:30 p.m. In an open letter “to The Richmond Times-Dispatch, Style Weekly, Richmond magazine, all readers of Richmond and beyond and, most importantly, Jonathan Gold,” Shaffner apologized for the plagiarism and said it was not her intent to steal another critic’s words.

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.

Update: July 29, 4 p.m. Style Weekly, which published nine of Shaffner’s reviews in 2015, has since removed them from its website.

To Our Readers: RTD Parts Ways With Restaurant Critic [Richmond Times-Dispatch]

Ex-Richmond Times-Dispatch restaurant critic Elliott Shaffner responds: ‘I’m mortified’ [Richmond Times-Dispatch]

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