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Plagiarizing Newspaper Editor Writes Check for 'Bull S***' After Video Confrontation With Persistent Local Blogger


Some people simply have no capacity to be graceful in defeat. This story might involve the poster child for that problem.

Bob Ripley, Publisher and Managing Editor of the Oregon Times Observer, a small local paper located in Oregon, Missouri, had a bit of a problem. On the one hand, there was a fairly serious local story his paper should cover involving an audit that found "serious shortcomings" in the local Sheriff's Department due to its poor accounting. On the other hand, Ripley's paper had already been scooped by conservative blogger Duane Lester, who had already done a comprehensive and devastating write-up of the audit's findings.

Of course, Ripley could have assigned a reporter to write their own version of what happened, possibly with a nod to Lester's blog post. Or he could have asked Lester for permission to reprint the blog post. He could have possibly even used some of Lester's sources after verifying them himself.

Ripley did none of these things. Instead, he simply took Lester's entire blog post, reformatted it so it would work as a newspaper article, added a paragraph of editorializing at the end, made a minor cosmetic change to the headline, and then ran it as a front page story without even copy editing it. In other words, Ripley stole Lester's work, typos and all, and passed it off as his own. Oh, and did we mention he didn't even use Lester's byline?

Fortunately, justice was not long in coming. You see, someone tipped Lester off about this blatant theft of his work, which led him to seek unofficial legal advice on the topic and then pen a full-scale "assertion of copyright" letter in which he graciously offers to let Lester off the hook for his infringement (a crime which carries a minimum fee of $750) if he'll pay $500 to Lester for usage of the article.

This is where the story gets good. As it turns out, Lester didn't simply mail this letter to Ripley and wait for the latter to write back meekly with a check. Like any good blogger, he took his camera and drove to Oregon, Missouri itself to confront Ripley face-to-face. The resulting confrontation was captured in the video below, and gets tense extremely quickly:

For those without a functional Flash player, I'll explain the gist of what happens. Ripley begins by responding dismissively, sarcastically saying "We're terribly sorry if we stepped on your feet" when Lester tells him what he's done. Lester responds, "You didn't step on my feet. You violated my rights."

A woman who apparently works for Ripley responds incredulously at this statement, but Lester holds his ground. Ripley rapidly becomes confrontational, saying, "This doesn't even say where you're from." Lester responds that it doesn't matter because copyright applies everywhere.

Ripley tries to distract from the issue by going on a rant about headline writing practices among older journalists. Lester dismisses this, pointing out that it has nothing to do with the issue at hand. After a bit more hemming and hawing ("It's not reprinted 100 percent the way you had it!"), Ripley says he'll talk to his lawyer. Lester forcefully points out that the copyright violating is crystal clear, with the implication that no lawyer would contest the case in court. Ripley - clearly angry - takes out his checkbook and writes a check, which he hands to Lester, saying "Now get your ass--" before the live video cuts out.

In a visual postscript to the video, Lester notes that Ripley told him to "Get your ass out of my building." He then shows a screenshot of the check that Ripley wrote him. Look below to see the rather obviously childish reason Ripley gave for writing it:

That's right - Ripley wrote out a $500 check for "Bull S**t." Lester apparently didn't care, and cashed it anyway.

H/T: David Frum

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