How serial plagiarist Jon Flatland learned he’d been caught

Jon Flatland’s incredible plagiarism spree came to an end earlier this week after a phone call from Greg Bulmash, who was among the writers humorist Dave Fox notified to say that Flatland had plagiarized their work.

Bulmash says Flatland, a columnist and former newspaper owner, copied his 1996 poem “When Dad Pulled Over.” “He changed the antagonist from an older sister to a brother, but it was otherwise pretty much word-for-word,” Bulmash wrote in an email.

“I called the paper, demanding to talk to the editor, not knowing that Flatland was the editor,” Bulmash said. “He claimed he hadn’t realized he’d plagiarized, saying he’d found it in an old folder and thought he wrote it. I asked for a public retraction and correction and suggested he get ready to issue more apologies because it seemed other authors had similar issues with him.”

After Bulmash called, Flatland emailed his boss, Rick Bussler, and resigned. “Feel like crap that I went-off half-cocked and gave him a heads-up before his boss could confront him,” Bulmash wrote.

This isn’t Bulmash’s first brush with unauthorized reuse of his work. A 1997 humor column he wrote about a McDonald’s application made Snopes after it became a much-forwarded email that senders claimed was true.

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  • Anonymous

    This resurrects memories of the old Mike Barnicle bungle back in the 1990s. He cornered the markets on serial plagiarism as well as serial fabrication, then followed it up with serial denials.

  • Dave Lieber

    Can you imagine this scene? You call the editor to talk about what a scoundrel Jon Flatland is, and the editor answers and says, “Hi. Jon Flatland here. How can I help you?” 

    (I’ve had my share of awkward moments in almost four decades as a newspaperman, but nothing like THAT.)