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Jeff Stahler cartoon questioned as plagiarism? (UPDATED)

The accusation of plagiarism has raised it’s ugly head and is looking at Columbus Dispatch editorial cartoonist Jeff Stahler. According to Jim Romenesko, a headline by Andy Borowitz ran last Thursday stating, “New Study Finds iPad is Cure for Adultery; Owners ‘Stop Noticing Other People Altogether” is eerily similar to a cartoon Jeff ran three days later with the caption, “New study: Smart phone users are less likely to commit adultery, since they’ve stopped noticing others around them.”

Romenesko contacted the Dispatch editor for comment. Editor Ben Marrison called it “a coincidence.”

I contacted Jeff for a response, but he tells me he isn’t able to comment publicly on the issue.

UPDATE: Romenesko has a response back from Jeff’s editor which concludes that the cartoon and headline were a coincidence.

We investigated Mr. Borowitz?s allegation yesterday and today. What we know is that [Dispatch cartoonist] Jeff [Stahler] created the cartoon Wednesday, submitted it Thursday (the same day Borowitz?s piece appeared), and published it Sunday. Jeff was not familiar with Borowitz?s piece until Borowitz himself brought it to our attention. It appears to be a coincidence.

Community Comments

#1 Jeff Darcy
May/24/2011
@ 11:21 pm

Clicking on the link to the Borowitz report I see the page also
has a Schwarzenegger “Sperminator” joke headline. Did
Borowitz come up with “Sperminator” first and tradmark it?
Or was it one of the many cartoonists and comedians who also
did similar Sperminator jokes? Sperminator here Sperminator there, everywhere a Sperminator.

#2 John Cole
May/25/2011
@ 8:12 am

Borowitz gleefully accused Jeff of plagiarism yesterday on his FB fan page. A hundred-plus of his FB parrots — er, “fans” — piled on, going so far as to suggest that someone from Ohio obviously would be too dim to come up with a joke like that.

By early evening, however, Borowitz had removed any and all mention of Jeff’s cartoon from said FB page. Interesting.

And while we’re on the subject: I posted a “deather” joke 30 seconds after bin Laden’s death was announced, and therefore own all rights to it. Royalty checks may be sent to my office.

#3 Mike Lester
May/25/2011
@ 8:28 am

Jeff, a fair question but not accurate in this case. Duplicate cartoons reacting to a REAL event like Arnold Schwarzenegger are common. -Operative word “REAL”.

But one of these guys wrote about a FICTITIOUS study. Logic tells you only one of them is the author. I think Andy Borowitz, legitimately questions the incredulous coincidence that he and Stahler could both conjure a purely fictitious “iPAD STUDY” at the same exact moment. If this was a sting, Stahler couldn’t have been caught any more dead to right.

Stahler shouldn’t be nailed to a cross but this is the third time he’s had to face similar accusations. Hey, some people need to steal. It happens.

#4 John Cole
May/25/2011
@ 8:42 am

Mike: I have to admit that the coincidence is striking. However, Borowitz would have been better-served by back-channeling a query to Jeff or Jeff’s editor ? not by firing off a 21-gun accusation.

Plagiarism is an industrial-strength sin in publishing and a firing offense in many cases. One better be sure of their facts before leveling the charge.

#5 Christopher Weyant
May/25/2011
@ 9:08 am

Stahler is a talented cartoonist. Many cartoonists arrive at the same ideas without it being plagiarism. Unfortunately, I have found one of his cartoons from USA TOday that is the same setup, art direction and copy as one of my cartoons from the New Yorker. When I looked into it their archive, there were another 7 or so that mirrored other well-known cartoons from my magazine’s other artist.

I let it go as it’s big accusation and it seemed to stop. Obviously, there’s a problem here.

#6 Mike Lester
May/25/2011
@ 9:11 am

Make that four times.

#7 Jeff Darcy
May/25/2011
@ 9:48 am

Mike are you telling me all that stuff on the Borowitz report is fake? I look forward to reading the investigative report
The Onion does on this. Onion farmers know dirt from dirt

#8 Mike Lester
May/25/2011
@ 10:41 am

“New Study Finds iPad is Cure for Adultery; Owners ?Stop Noticing Other People Altogether?” by Borowitz

is a FAKE study.

http://www.borowitzreport.com/2011/05/19/new-study-finds-ipad-is-cure-for-adultery-owners-stop-noticing-other-people-altogether/

#9 Matt Bors
May/25/2011
@ 11:20 am

Stahler sure has a lot of coincidences.

#10 David Rickert
May/25/2011
@ 1:05 pm

I noticed the coincidence too as I get the Borowitz report and the Dispatch. They were too close in time to be a coincidence. I do like Stahler’s stuff a lot and was disappointed to see what I thought was a pretty blatant swipe.

#11 LARRY TREPEL
May/25/2011
@ 2:10 pm

Obvious plagiarism, since it was a joke to begin with.
He should be fired immediately, since there are plenty of better cartoonists with more ethics out there looking for work.

#12 Bill Columbus
May/25/2011
@ 9:42 pm

Plagiarism? Yep! I just looked at both and it appears Stahler had to have viewed the blog and did a cartoon with that idea. In of itself it wouldn’t be a problem to get a cartoon idea from a blog or any other media, but the cartoon’s text is way too close to the blog to be a coincidence. Of course it appears even worse when others give up other times this person seems to have done the same thing. BAD FORM!!!

#13 Dave Stephens
May/25/2011
@ 11:55 pm

Before blogs and the internet, political cartoonists would OFTEN have the exact same idea with NO way of knowing another artist just took the same, exact approach – with waaaaaay less papers and artists today (I’m guessing an 80% reduction in artists and 50% reduction in newspapers), it is less likely to happen, statistically, but it will still happen…

#14 Dave Stephens
May/25/2011
@ 11:59 pm

If Stahler is a serial cartoonist-idea-raper, he should be stopped. The question is, is there enough non-circumstantial evidence to bring the hammer down? I dunno…

#15 Jim Lavery
May/26/2011
@ 10:14 am

Didn’t The Bad Cartoonist (God rest his soul) show that Stahler even plagerizes from himself?

#16 Tom Falco
May/28/2011
@ 8:48 am

I see so many funny things posted on twitter that I would love to use in a cartoon, and am very tempted, but I don’t for this very reason, also, I never know if the person who posted the tweet was quoting someone else, maybe even a cartoon that he/she had seen earlier that day.

#17 Tom Falco
May/28/2011
@ 8:51 am

PS, a cartoon I ran in the recent Creator’s Syndicate cartoon contest was almost the exact thing that ran in the New Yorker a few days earlier. It was totally a coincidence, at least on my part, I had proof that I uploaded the cartoon in Feb. and not April, when both cartoons were published and I also had proof that I had created the cartoon a long time ago. But coincidences do happen.

#18 Brian Fairrington
May/28/2011
@ 7:18 pm

You cannot plagiarize yourself, it is defined as taking from someone else:

“Plagiarism is defined as the “wrongful appropriation,” “close imitation,” or “purloining and publication” of ANOTHER author’s “language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions,” and the representation of them as one’s own original work.”

#19 Mike Peterson
May/29/2011
@ 3:12 am

Actually, there IS an ethical violation known as self-plagiarism, which consists of essentially submitting a previously published work, either in its original form or with minor changes. It’s similar to what is known in academic circles as “dovetailing,” which is writing, say, a paper on “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” and submitting it in both your history and literature courses.

In the academic case, the problem is that the paper is likely to be substandard in one aspect or the other — either it’s a good history analysis and poor literary analysis or vice-versa. The “cure” is to write the paper with the knowledge of and direction from both professors. Usually not as easy as doing two separate papers.

But there’s no ethical cure for doing a cartoon every four years with the newly-elected president or governor sitting in the drivers seat of a car that is still in the driveway while the media and Congress are depicted as kids screaming from the back seat “Are we there yet?” That’s just lazy, and, yes, it’s copying yourself and cheating both your client and your readers.

#20 Brian Fairrington
May/29/2011
@ 12:59 pm

Mike, I think the notion that submitting work you had previously done in an academic setting may well in fact fall into the camp of violating ethical standards.

However, I think we are confusing cartooning in general with something other than what it is at it’s core…which is entertainment. Looking at it from that perspective if, like Stahler, a cartoonist steals from another they are in copyright violation. Legally this is worse than plagiarism.

Subsequently, if that same cartoonist want to use material that they previously created then they are free to do so. After all, how many times did Charlie Brown try and kick that football?

#21 Mike Peterson
May/29/2011
@ 8:06 pm

You need to realize that he only did that once a year, which means it wasn’t self-plagiarism but tradition.

Pay attention here, boy.

#22 Clay Jones
May/30/2011
@ 11:23 am

No political cartoonist should ever draw the same cartoon again. We draw cartoons similar to previous work, make the same statements, etc., but not the same cartoon. It’s an ethical violation. We are journalists. We are required to follow the same ethic guidelines as our colleagues.

I don’t think it’s a firing offense. Circumstances are different. Sometimes the cartoonist might have forgotten he ever did it before.

I would hope a political cartoonist knows the difference between what he/she does, and what is done in a gag-a-day comic strip for the funny pages.

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