Brightest Young Thing’s managing editor lifts from other publications

The managing editor of D.C.-based culture blog Brightest Young Things, Logan Donaldson, appears to have lifted 44 blurbs credited “-Logan” from multiple publications in a summer music guide published 9 a.m. March 26.

Emily White first brought this to my attention at noon today via Gmail Gchat, pointing out the similarity of the blurb promoting Wavves’ April 13 gig at the Rock & Roll Hotel:

When I clicked the BYT link, the post read:

I then clicked White’s link to Interview Magazine‘s 2009 profile on Wavves, written by T. Cole Rachel, which reads:

From the first word to the right before Interview begins to quote Wavves’ Nathan Williams, the BYT paragraph matches exactly.

Skeptical it was a coincidence, I then searched another post in the BYT music guide credited to Donaldson. I picked the very first blurb in the guide about Depeche Mode’s upcoming album Delta Machine.

A quick search brought me to this album review by Neil McCormick for The Telegraph, from which Donaldson lifts from two paragraphs.

Outraged by the blatant plagiarism White and I began tweeting about our findings while continuing to look into the BYT post, as well as Donaldson.

The XLR8R Magazine example is particularly egregious because Donaldson took the time to edit out XLR8R’s self-mention.


XLR8R (Pay attention to the second line “the XLR8R faithful”):
(Credit to Tim Anderson for bringing this to my attention.)

Eventually Logan Donaldson replied to White and me on Twitter, however he removed the tweet soon after. Fortunately, screenshots of the tweet were taken.

Donaldson also deleted another incriminating tweet from the past 24 hours, in which he humblebragged about writing “7,000 words on music yesterday and overnight.” Unfortunately, by the time I thought to screenshot it, it had been taken down. Lesson learned.

In addition to the 44 posts that were credited to Logan Donaldson (it is not clear if Donaldson plagiarized on all 44 posts), there were many which did not have any attribution. It is entirely reasonable that they could have been written by BYT staffers, however Andrew Bailey found that some BYT blurbs matched Facebook descriptions.

Other victims of Donaldson’s copy-past rampage:The Believer Magazine, Dummy Magazine.

The Washington City Paper‘s Will Sommer has also found that Donaldson lifted from Rolling Stone and even Wikipedia. The City Paper said 18 blurbs have now been changed to source various outside publications and websites. The new attributions include:
Chicago Tribune
• Sierra Club
Resident Advisor
• Howard Theatre
Complex Magazine
• HipHopDX

By 9 p.m., other changes to BYT’s summer music guide do not include any sign of an “updated,” “correction,” “clarification,” “disclaimer” or similar tag, however the by-line now reads “curated and written by.” Logan Donaldson is still the first contributor credited.

The DCist also wrote a story on BYT’s lazy plagiarism and equally lazy coverup, with comments from BYT founder Svetlana Legetic. (Legetic also comments in the City Paper‘s story.)

As of 9:30 a.m. March 27, the BYT guide has been edited and removed the previously plagiarized paragraphs that were later amended with attribution. They have been replaced by a sentence or two and no writer is given credit.

The by-line at the top of the BYT post has been changed again to read “All original words by,” and Donaldson is now the fourth writer credited. Until the morning, Donaldson remained the first writer listed in the credit line, even after attributions on at least 18 plagiarized blurbs were edited to various publications and websites (from “-Logan”) and the by-line was changed to “curated and written by.” There is still no “correction,” “edited,” “updated,” “clarification” or any resembling tag on the BYT post.

By 1 p.m. March 27, this editor’s note was added to the top of the BYT post:

Ed Note: This post has been updated to include only original content produced by BYT writers. Thank you for reading and your patience.

An 11:04 p.m. tweet from DCist associate editor Benjamin R. Freed, who wrote the earlier story on the scandal, said Donaldson has been dismissed, and BYT is investigating the extent of his plagiarism and temporarily taking down all posts that credit Donaldson.

Read all the tweets over on Storify.

  1. Ahh, it’s so nice to see some investigations unfold. To you and Miss Emily White. Please keep it up!

    • Kettle said:

      I wonder how many of those bands’ records Emily White has stolen? Or did the records steal her? Or owned her? Or something?

      • Well, it was only a matter of time…

  2. This is super intense – also, it goes to show how thoughtless some people are about social media (what with the ridiculous tweets that were removed by Donaldson).

  3. El L said:

    Great work, Marissa and Emily! I guess what’s surprising is that the founder is making excuses for the guy (and for that matter, all the other writers on that site) saying that you run out ways to describe a new band. Really? Not sure about you all, but I don’t buy that.

  4. Wow…I’m at a loss as to what to say about all this. Such a bummer. Mostly I want to say a big THANK YOU to Marissa and Emily for looking out for fellow writers and being so thorough in their efforts. I would have never known this was happening. Also, it bears mentioning that a couple of different people at BYT have reached out directly to apologize to me about this….but not Logan Donaldson.

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