Earlier in the week, I fired off a rambling column on Nat Berman and the TVOvermind plagiarism mill that New York Magazine editor Megh Wright dragged into the light through sheer grit and willpower. My goal was to quickly get a post up that would bolster Wright’s thread by sharing my experience of being recruited by Berman, who made some weird-ass claims that immediately snapped into focus when I learned that he’s lifting content left and right. That’s definitely one way to churn out 40 articles a day.
Now, you’d just assume that Wright’s work would bring TVOvermind and Berman’s entire Uncoached network crashing down. With a jarring amount of ease, she found plagiarized articles from CBR, Screen Rant, Gizmodo, Fortune, Ad Age, JTA, Futurism, VR Focus, Expertise HQ, Looper, The Points Guy, and the goddamn Washington Post. Seems real bad, right? Welp, that’s not even counting all of the stolen pet content because, surprise, that’s happening, too. Which lines up with Berman’s goal of stockpiling evergreen search terms so he’s rolling in SEO. But that’s hard to do without paying writers, and ha, who wants to do that?
Here’s the thing, though, nothing happened. While it looked like even Berman thought his sh*t was cooked, he apparently decided to see what would happen if he just acted like none of this ever happened? And it worked! Not only did his network continue to soak up search hits with stolen content, but TVOvermind got a bump from whoever the hell Zak Bagans is. Turns out people go f*cking bananas for hosts of ghost-themed programming. America’s swell.
Nothing like seeing a site riddled with plagiarism getting boosted on social media because it said nice words about a TV show. Awesome stuff. Even better, in the midst of all this, “Tom” — the TVOvermind writer who originally got busted stealing a Vulture article, which started this whole debacle — was openly sharing a creepy “fictional” short story about a writer who was being unfairly targeted for a simple mistake, you guys. It was clearly aimed at Wright along with some choice musical selections. But by Tuesday, “Tom” and his ongoing tome included both a super stupid admission of Berman’s plan to wait things out and a blatant threat aimed at me and Wright.
P.S. “Tom” wrote all of the characters as women for reasons that I’m sure would make me slit my wrists if I knew. (Emphasis mine.)
“We’re going to have to play ball just for a bit,” her boss said, taking a sip from the cup she had in her other hand after speaking.
“I know you said to stay off of Twitter, but I went ahead and found the author that the editor said we, I, plagiarized, and offered an apology.”
She expected her boss to say something snarky, like “Why did you do that?” or perhaps “That wasn’t the best move” but instead as she turned around she saw the other woman nodding, still drinking her coffee as she continued to gaze at the screen. Finally her cup came down, revealing the lips behind its blue porcelain rim as she swallowed.
“That’s probably a good idea this time,” she said calmly, “It’ll keep the haters pacified for a short time until we start publishing all this content again.”
“Have you seen the articles they’ve posted about us?”
“Oh yes,” her boss said, turning to walk away, “And I plan on doing something about them, but not right at this moment.”
So just a quick note, if you guys happen to see someone wearing my face as a mask, kindly direct the police to that excerpt. I don’t want to tell the cops how to do their jobs, but it might be a good place to start.
Anyway, if “Tom” is in communication with Nat — and I’m not ruling out that “Tom” is Nat because everything about this ordeal is goddamn insane — then it’s absolutely incredible that these galaxy-brains are literally telegraphing the fact that they plan to return to business as normal. They’re not even trying to hide it, and the sad thing is, they probably don’t have to.
Despite the mountain of evidence that Wright keeps stacking up, exposing Uncoached as a plagiarism mill means nothing if the original publications do nothing. That costs money, which this industry has in scarce supply these days. I’m hoping I’m wrong, and at least one outlet pulls the trigger, but I’m guessing Berman’s counting on his little racket not being worth the effort. As if freelancing wasn’t bad enough, there’s a guy out here openly stealing your content and using it to siphon off clicks that keep your career afloat.
This is why I have daydreams about running a Starbucks. This right here.
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