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This week, the Crime Junkies are the ones being investigated.
In a lengthy piece at BuzzFeed, reporter Stephanie McNeal lays out a clear trend of plagiarism accusations against the hosts of the popular true-crime podcast, Crime Junkie. The piece reveals a pattern of poor citation and uncredited research from the popular podcast.
Journalists and podcasters have come forward alleging that hosts Ashley Flowers and Brit Prawat have a habit of not properly crediting sources. As these allegations have surfaced, some of the offending episodes have been deleted from the podcast’s archive.
Crime Junkie is one of the most popular true-crime podcasts on iTunes, boasting over 100,000 reviews. The duo hosts live shows, sells merchandise, and hosts premium content on Patreon: the bonafides of podcast success in 2019.
Among those who came forward in the BuzzFeed piece are Cathy Frye, a former journalist who covered a story featured on Crime Junkie; Robin Warder, host of the podcast The Trail Went Cold; and Esther Ludlow, host of Once Upon A Crime. McNeal also has sources who she says declined to go on the record for the piece.
The hosts posted a statement on Facebook on Thursday pushing back against the accusations. The statement included the lines:
“There is no greater priority for our team, or for me personally, than to ensure the highest levels of accuracy and integrity in our program. Our research process is thorough, rigid, and exhaustive, and those familiar with ‘Crime Junkie’ are aware that we make clear references to the use of other sources and that comprehensive notes and links to all sources are made available on our show’s website.”
However, the hosts do show some level of contrition later in the statement with the lines, “[It] would not be possible absent the incredible efforts of countless individuals who investigate and report these stories originally, and they deserve to be credited as such…We are committed to working within the burgeoning podcast industry to develop and evolve its standards on these kinds of issues.”
While standards for sourcing and citing research on podcasts are evolving, a number of people McNeal spoke to expressed hope that the case of Crime Junkie will help raise the journalistic standards of true-crime podcasting.
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Brenden Gallagher is a politics reporter and cultural commentator. His work has been published by Motherboard, Complex, and VH1. He’s the co-founder of Beer Money Films, an indie production company. Based in Los Angeles, he works in television drama as a writers assistant.