Humor writer says he's uncovered another serial plagiarist

The Wa Blog

Steve Jeffrey, the publisher and editor of The Anchor Weekly in Chestermere, Alberta, has wantonly plagiarized from humor writers, writes George Waters, who describes how he discovered that Jeffrey apparently had reproduced his own work.

Waters read every one of Jeffrey's columns from the last year and found that in 42 of the 52 issues he looked at, his "Sittin' in the Lighthouse" column contained material filched from other writers.

Sheila Moss appears to be Jeffrey's most frequent muse; he used the Tennessee humorist's material for 24 of the 42 columns. Often it seems as if Jeffrey used her headlines as well: Her 2011 column, "OED says OMG, FYI, LOL OK," was reproduced on March 31 with the same headline, but Jeffrey's photo and byline.
"He must have really liked me, huh?" Moss told me when reached by telephone. Her posts are regularly republished on blogs and forums about humor, so much that she doesn’t have time to deal with it. "This case is a little bit different because of the guy being in the news business. Clearly he would understand what he was doing."

She said she frequently allows small publishers to use her work for a fee. "If he had simply asked, I probably would have let him use it for a very low fee," she said, with one condition: "I would have asked him to put my name on it."

Reached by telephone in Alberta, where he said he was about to travel to British Columbia for two weeks, Jeffrey seemed baffled by Waters' allegations. His column, he told me, doesn't even touch on comedy. "I don't write humor, and I don't blog," he said. "I write a 'Lighthouse' column, but 'Lighthouse' is about local politics."

According to Waters, Jeffrey also used the work of Erik Deckers, who would now have the distinction of being ripped off by two different people; the other is Jon Flatland, who was unmasked as a serial plagiarist last month. "Wow, he at least did a better job of stealing it than Jon Flatland," writes Deckers in an email. "At least he edited several things to make it more personal to him.”

Indeed, like Flatland, Jeffrey appears to have usually changed a few details of these columns — though not always in a convincing fashion. For example, Jeffrey nicked a humorous quiz from Waters on May 19 that replaced a section about the American Revolution with questions about the Canadian Confederation, though he left in Waters' bit about Paul Revere.

In a 2000 piece called "Don't Let the Door Hit You on the Way In," Peter Chianca writes, "I opened the car door, which proceeded to sock me square in the bridge of my nose and slice my glasses in half." Jeffrey's remix from May 12, 2011, reads, "I opened the car door, which proceeded to sock me square in the bridge of my nose and slice my sun-glasses glasses in half."

"I do see things pop up occasionally with my byline but without my permission," Chianca said when reached by phone. "I’ve never seen anything this … horrifyingly blatant."

My conversation with Jeffrey was surreal. When I relayed Waters’ allegations, Jeffrey responded, “I don't know what to say.” When I asked if the columns that ran under his name weren't his, he said, "I would say yes because I don't like humor.”

After checking that I was on the phone with the Steve Jeffrey in question, I offered to send him examples of two of the columns Waters says were taken from other writers. He promised to read the columns and get back in touch with me.

Previous issues from The Anchor’s online archives, from which both Waters and I downloaded PDFs of Jeffrey’s columns, are no longer available.

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


Related News

Email IconGroup 3Facebook IconLinkedIn IconsearchGroupTwitter IconGroup 2YouTube Icon