So, about Crime Junkie

Crime Junkie is a true crime podcast. I’ve never listened to it and have no intention of doing so, but they are very popular and they’ve been praised by Rolling Stone as “the best true crime podcast” out of the many in existence, and there’s talk that they may create a TV show.

Unfortunately, however, it turns out Crime Junkie has been plagiarizing other people’s hard work: other podcasters, journalists, bloggers, Wikipedia… and me too, as an informant pointed out on Twitter.

In response to being called out, including by people whose work was plagiarized, Crime Junkie went back and deleted some of the episodes. When asked about this, they refused to admit to anything at all, saying they’d only deleted the episodes because the original citations were no longer available.

The accusations broke out on Buzzfeed a week ago. The Indianapolis Star (Indianapolis being the residence of one of the Crime Junkie hosts, Ashley Flowers) did an article about it yesterday. The Reluctant Habits blog has also done a good, if speculative, entry about it as well. And so on.

The response from Crime Junkie? Some kind of bull about how their research was “thorough, rigid and exhaustive” with “clear references to other sources.”

Then why are they reading other people’s work WORD FOR WORD, and not mentioning it’s an exact quote, or mentioning the other source AT ALL?

The Charley Project gets plagiarized all the time and it always upsets me because it’s wrong, it’s stealing, it’s lying, but I’m pretty used to it by now and recognize there’s no way to really stop it.

But it REALLY upsets me in cases like this because Crime Junkie is, they say, enormously popular and is making tens of thousands of dollars per episode. At one episode a week, those two women would be making a killing (no pun intended). And all of that from other people’s work. Journalists and other podcasters, and me, trying to make an honest living and contribute to society, having their hard work stolen by grifters.

Now, I talked to a friend and he thinks probably Crime Junkie isn’t nearly as popular or making as much money as Ashley Flowers and Brit Pawat claim. The Reluctant Habits blog raises the same issue, suggesting they fudged the numbers. And if Ashley and Brit really were making $50k a week, why did Ashley not quit her day job till early this year?

Regardless, they are making more than me, more than many of the people whose work they’re stealing.

Now, I don’t know if what Crime Junkie is doing is LEGALLY wrong, since you can’t copyright facts, and the Charley Project is very much “just the facts, ma’am.” But it’s definitely MORALLY wrong.

My terms of use, for Charley Project material, are very generous. Use what you like; all you have to do is cite me. It would have taken SECONDS to just say “courtesy of the Charley Project” or “we found this info in an exclusive series of Randomtown Newspaper articles by So-And-So.” To be using other people’s work, word for word, and not even mention it–that’s both lying and stealing.

Crime Junkie owes an apology to the people whose content they used without citations, and to their listeners. But they won’t even do that.

20 thoughts on “So, about Crime Junkie

  1. christie groves August 22, 2019 / 4:37 pm

    Yeah, I heard them read direct from Charley Project I was so po-ed!!!! Even when I write to NamUs about a missing person and unidentified remains I include your URL to that person on Charley! These gals really suck, sorry it’s just wrong.

  2. Chris August 22, 2019 / 9:49 pm

    Really, every podcast that covers missing people should include a shout out to your site in the episode notes, at least. The Charley Project is the quintessential missing persons repository and it would be nice if all these podcasts helped steer some donations towards it. Many of these hosts like to talk about how much work goes into their podcasts, never mentioning the work that has gone into compiling the information so they really dont have to work very hard at all.

    • Meaghan August 22, 2019 / 9:51 pm

      I agree—someone recently said in a Facebook comment that the Charley Project was “the IMDB of missing persons.”

      Victimology, a podcast I was interviewed for, mentioned my donation thing. The FreeThink video I was in put the donation info in the YouTube description.

    • Pm August 23, 2019 / 4:32 am

      John lordan on YouTube is great and always mentions Meaghan and Charley project

      • Meaghan August 23, 2019 / 5:45 am

        Yeah, I watched his video about the Crime Junkie thing.

  3. Admin August 22, 2019 / 11:12 pm


    • Meaghan August 22, 2019 / 11:13 pm

      I subscribe to your site. And always cite it.

      • Admin August 30, 2019 / 3:03 pm

        I donated to yours and site yours, too. Respect.

  4. Admin August 22, 2019 / 11:29 pm

    Interesting thought about the revenue/popularity. I never thought about verbal plagiarism before this incident with CJ. And I thought trolls were the only thing I had to worry about. “Clowns to the left of me jokers to the right, here I am stuck in the middle with you,” by Stealers Wheel, UMG Publishing.

    • Meaghan August 22, 2019 / 11:31 pm

      The blog entry I mentioned suggests Ashley and Brit may be trying to look more popular/successful than they actually are, in order to attract more listeners. People would maybe think “I should listen to this podcast, it must be great, they’re soooo popular.”

  5. Sonya August 23, 2019 / 12:11 am

    I’m sorry to hear that, both for you and the others they plagiarized. I think I’ve heard of Crime Junkie before, but I’d never listened to them.

    I can’t really fathom why they wouldn’t apologize to people they plagiarized. From a moral standpoint, it’s my opinion that it is just the right thing to do. But from a ‘podcast’ business aspect, just pulling down the episodes where it happened without apologizing is making them look even worse. It seems like a “Game Over” maneuver. I don’t know much about legal stuff. Surely a lawyer wouldn’t advise them to do that….? But never mind all that. You work very hard on this site, Meaghan. You deserve to have your work here credited, and I think they owe you and the others they plagiarized an apology, at the very least.

  6. Patrick Kerrigan August 23, 2019 / 10:42 am

    This is standard. We have a guy running for president, who has been plagiarizing other peoples speeches for years. But off course he does not apologize, and the regular media does not report it, or are they concerned. I come across information from the Charley Project on other sites also.

    • Bruno August 26, 2019 / 12:04 pm

      Just gotta be political on a missing persons website, huh?

      • Pamela May 29, 2022 / 3:54 am

        Good grief, this is much later, I know, but Patrick was only making a point about how plagiarism has become acceptable, and doesn’t even mention which candidate it IS.

  7. Jim Connor August 24, 2019 / 2:03 pm

    Plagurization is still wrong. Some youtube videos on mp’s read directly from Charley. This is unethical. You may want to see what your legal rights are.

  8. Catherine August 25, 2019 / 12:59 am

    Hmm. I haven’t heard of this podcast or scandal but I will look it up. Did anyone here listen to In Sight? It’s called Crimelines now, but had a very similar issue. I do appreciate John Lordan always shouting you out.

    • Paige September 9, 2019 / 4:50 pm

      Did In Sight have a scandal? I remember one episode (Juan Pedro Martinez) where their script was exactly the same as what I heard in a YouTube video about the case by the channel Criminally Listed.

  9. Kyle August 26, 2019 / 10:08 pm

    I honestly never liked them. I found their podcast to be a little to lighthearted and ‘jokey’ for the content it was covering. It almost made me a little uncomfortable to hear them laughing and joking on a podcast about a missing child who was found raped and murdered. A little disrespectful if you ask me.
    The Charley Project is such a bible in this industry. And it is run by one single person. Why would you not want to praise that. It should be an HONOR to quote The Charlie Project.

    • Mia August 26, 2019 / 10:52 pm

      I feel that way about the time of the My Favorite Murder podcast.

      • Mia August 26, 2019 / 10:52 pm

        The tone, not the time.

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