The controversy over alleged plagiarism by the producers of the Crime Junkie podcast has taken a legal turn. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the newspaper where reporter Cathy Frye published her stories on a 2003 murder that was later featured in the podcast, has sent a cease-and-desist letter to Crime Junkie saying it still doesn’t believe the paper is receiving the proper attribution.
Crime Junkie, the hit podcast co-hosted by Ashley Flowers and Brit Prawat, last month pulled down several episodes after accusations surfaced that the show was using source materials without giving proper credit. The charges first came to light last month when Frye accused the show in a 446-word Facebook post of using exclusive information and quoting from her newspaper series about a local murder case directly without attribution.
In response to the allegations, Flowers in a Facebook post said the shows had been taken down, saying their source material “could no longer be found or properly cited” but didn’t address the charges of plagiarism directly. Then a week later the episodes—including the “Murdered: Kacie Woody” episode that the Frye said used her work were returned to the main feed with all the sources cited on a web page that has since been taken down.
“We will strive to provide the most accurate and concise information available to us and will offer thorough citations for all new episodes,” Flowers said in the post. “Our work would not be possible absent the incredible efforts of countless individuals who investigate and report these stories originally, and they deserve to be credited as such.”
The mea culpa wasn’t enough to satisfy the Democrat-Gazette, however, which last week told Flowers and the show’s production company Audio Chuck that if the episodes in question weren’t taken down a second time, the newspaper would pursue legal action, including seeking monetary damages. In the letter, attorney Alec Gaines says the Democrat-Gazette and Frye spent “innumerable hours and resources” on their reporting of the story, alleging the Crime Junkie episode “contains material nearly identical to the copyright in both format and substance.” It demands the show is either edited to “fully and unequivocally credit” the paper or the episode be taken down. It gave Flowers until Sept. 12 to respond, threatening that “further action including but not limited to filing a lawsuit” may be taken. Read the full letter HERE.
In the weeks since, Crime Junkie has received a flurry of negative attention and other allegations of plagiarism have surfaced about other podcasts. Flowers told her shows’ fans that Crime Junkie could become a learning moment for the podcast industry. “We are committed to working within the burgeoning podcast industry to develop and evolve its standards on these kinds of issues,” she said.