Ripped Off by Matthew Rose and the Wall Street Journal

Matthew Rose has seen fit to write an article containing certain similarities to my own experiences with Facebook and, in fact, using the same Jonathan Franzen angle that I used here on September 26, 2007.

My lede: “Jonathan Franzen does not want to be my friend.”

Rose’s lede: “Is Jonathan Franzen my friend?”

Could such a similarity have been avoided? Well, enter the search terms “Jonathan Franzen Facebook” into Google and you shall see what comes up first.

Of course, Matthew Rose will deny it. But my post was the subject of some discussion — both in the blogosphere and on Facebook. I was the first to publicly out Franzen’s existence on Facebook. A friend of mine insisted that I write a feature article about the experience, but I told her that I honestly didn’t see any reason why any serious newspaper would be interested in my technological navel-gazing.

Oh, how wrong I was.

Open note to the Wall Street Journal: I happen to be a writer myself. And unlike Mr. Rose, I can actually generate original ideas.


  1. This is Matthew Rose of course denying it. It’s not my habit to Google chunks of unpublished stories to ensure they contain no previously expressed thoughts. Perhaps, instead, this shows the grip Jonathan Franzen exerts on the collective imagination?

  2. So let me get this straight, Matthew. You’re a “journalist” for the Wall Street Journal — which I know has a pretty thorough fact-checking department, although apparently not in this case — confessing that you do not use Google IN ANY WAY to examine the record, to see what has been laid down already, and to jump FROM what has already been written instead of REGURGITATING the hard line? Well, that says it all.

    Of course, your article will disappear behind the paywall while this PUBLISHED post will continue to stay here without pecuniary restraints.

  3. Where would you like to have this conversation? The email you just sent was somewhat more offensive than this comment. I’m wondering why there’s a difference.

  4. Where is the similarity? Franzen doesn’t want to be your friend. Matthew doesn’t want to be Franzen’s friend. It’s the opposite idea, if anything.

  5. i, for one, am on matthew’s side.

    as a writer myself, i realize that if two lines/plots/ideas/characters etc.etc.etc. seem to be oddly similar, or perhaps too like each other to be accidental, there’s no guarantee that one is, in fact, a copy of the other.

    for example, one of my past writing teachers had the belief that ideas (as well as lines, characters, etc.etc.etc.) were all up in the air, and once you ‘caught’ one, it ‘flew’ away for someone else to take and use as they may. and i didn’t believe her until i read my critique packet for that week and realized that my poem and another student’s poem were very similar. we hadn’t spoken about our pieces beforehand—they just were.

    all that so say that i think that matthew should at least have the benefit of the doubt. writing is so universal that you can’t just say ‘oh, gosh. our ideas were vaguely similar. you suck! plagiarist!’

    not only is that immature, its downright ridiculous.

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