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Coincidence or plagiarism for Jeff Stahler?
Yesterday’s editorial cartoon by Columbus Dispatch cartoonist Jeff Stahler has a striking similarity to a 2009 New Yorker cartoon by David Sipress (see both below).
I asked Jeff for a response to which he’d only say, “my only explaination [sic] is that it’s a coincidence.”
This is the second coincidence this year. Last March, one of his cartoons was found to be very close to a fake headline written by Andy Borowitz which read, “New Study Finds iPad is Cure for Adultery; Owners ‘Stop Noticing Other People Altogether“. Jeff’s cartoon caption read, “New study: Smart phone users are less likely to commit adultery, since they’ve stopped noticing others around them.”
Jeff’s editors reviewed the matter and declared they believed it was a coincidence. Here’s what they told Jim Romenesko:
We investigated Mr. Borowitz’s allegation yesterday and today. What we know is that [Dispatch cartoonist] Jeff [Stahler] created the cartoon Wednesday, submitted it Thursday (the same day Borowitz’s piece appeared), and published it Sunday. Jeff was not familiar with Borowitz’s piece until Borowitz himself brought it to our attention. It appears to be a coincidence.
Unlike David Simpson, who was caught lightboxing Jeff MacNelly cartoons with abandon, any of Jeff’s suspected cartoons are drawn in his own style and therefore harder to definitively prove to be cases of plagiarism.
That in mind, here are a couple more cases of similar cartoons between The New Yorker and Jeff’s work that were passed along to me.
Here’s a cartoon by Danny Shanahan that appeared in The New Yorker in 1999.
This Stahler cartoon ran in 2008, a decade later.
This cartoon by Robert Mankoff ran February 9, 2009 in The New Yorker.
Stahler touched on the same theme nine days later on February 18, 2009:
As a general rule, as long as the cartoonist isn’t light-boxing, I try to give them the benefit of the doubt. Even the ones cited above can be excused when looked at individually (the ‘nationalized’ cartoons are easy word gags based on the topic of the day). Collectively, however, the matter gets harder to explain away. Only Jeff knows for sure and the only on-the-record response he’s given me was that “it’s a coincidence.”