What the Plagiarism Accusations Against “Crime Junkie” Could Mean For Podcasting

Questions arise of whether the industry can police itself

"Crime Junkie" logo
The popular podcast "Crime Junkie" has recently come under fire due to accusations of plagiarism.
Crime Junkie
By Tobias Carroll / August 25, 2019 1:56 pm

It’s a good time to be a fan of true crime narratives right now, and that renaissance has been driven in part by the rise of podcasting. The expansive scope of the medium allows producers to explore the intricacies and ambiguities of a particular case, and it can make for a rewarding and challenging listening experience when it’s at its best. 

Recently, the popular podcast Crime Junkie was accused of plagiarism by journalist Cathy Frye. The implications of that might affect far more than one individual podcast.

Nicholas Quah at Vulture has a rundown of the issues facing Crime Junkie—and what their broader effects might be. Crime Junkie covered the 2002 killing of Kacie Woody in one episode; Frye tuned in and heard something that sounded uncannily like work that she’d done when covering the story at the time. As Quah describes it, Frye’s reaction was swift and understandable: “Frye went on to threaten legal action unless the podcast removed the relevant episode from their distribution channels.”

The result? That episode was pulled down; so were several others.

Quah’s article makes a critical point: podcasting is a not a form that lends itself terribly well to attribution or citation. And that speaks to broader trends in terms of how podcasting is reviewed and regulated.

The most prominent thread so far appears to be the way this brouhaha links the still-emerging nature of the podcast ecosystem to the broader (and long ongoing) discussions about the formulation and governance of ethical conduct in the digital world, which remains quite lawless in many corners.

As Quah puts it, “this brouhaha appears to be the community’s highest-profile scandal yet, and it’s one that may have material effects on the subculture as a whole.” You may or may not be a Crime Junkie listener, but the challenges they face may well impact a much larger array of podcasts across the internet.

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