Dear Jaclyn: No, BuzzFeed isn’t stealing your videos

Hey there, Jaclyn. We’re Sara and Kelsey, two seasoned video producers at BuzzFeed. It’s come to our attention that you’ve accused us of plagiarizing, or stealing, several video concepts. I (Sara) reached out to you privately to put the matter to rest, but the conversation wasn’t very constructive, so with the new allegations against Kelsey, it seemed like a good opportunity to clear the air publicly. We wanted to start by acknowledging how difficult it is as female content creators in this industry to succeed and make a living. We do not take allegations like these lightly, and think it’s important to be fully transparent and set the record straight.

While we hope this documentation puts your mind at ease — we’d also like to point out a couple other differences in the videos that aren’t as easily documented. We’d like to point out that Kelsey and Lara, the two women who appeared in the crystal video, suffer from chronic pain every day, and have spent the majority of their respective careers trying to make women feel less alone in that experience (you can see some of our work on the subject here, here, here, and here). While your video explored the potential healing qualities of crystals, the frame and point of view of our video was inherently different. You cannot plagiarize another woman’s chronic pain experience, because every woman’s chronic pain experience is different. We’d like to really underline that point: our video was not just about crystals, but about two women’s experiences grappling with issues that have severely affected their lives. In our opinion, there cannot be enough discourse or content made on that matter.

As for Sara’s video, while we understand the similarities in the video (the location, which is the epicenter of Pagan culture in LA)– it’s important to acknowledge that people have similar interests. This video and others like it had been in the works since May. I (Sara) make it a personal goal to create content exploring counter-culture and employing animation, both of which you can see in my Wicca video—which I ideated, produced, and edited myself.

We also want to note that our goal is solely to defend ourselves from these claims and to create a more respectful dialogue in this space that we all work in.

Finally, we’d like to point out that you’re not attacking some obscure large corporation — you’re attacking two women who care a lot about the content they produce, and the people that content resonates with. We’d like to dispel the myth that BuzzFeed operates like some Wizard-Of-Oz organization, and instead promote the truth, which is that every producer at BuzzFeed is an independent creator working on things they are passionate about.

Behind the curtain, there is not one person pulling the strings and instructing people to steal ideas, but rather a group of hardworking creators who want to make people feel a little less alone in the world.

Below, we’ve put together timelines that include screenshots of emails regarding all stages of the production of both of the videos you have called into question — Sara’s “We Practiced Magic With A Real Witch” and Kelsey’s “Women Try Crystal Healing For Chronic Pain.”

We’ve put this together to make it abundantly clear that your claims are unfounded. We’d be happy to discuss this with you further if you’d like, and we thank you in advance for setting the record straight.

Anything that has been blacked out is to respect people’s privacy.

Timeline for “We Practiced Magic With A Real Witch

May 16 — Katie (show producing for Sara) put in a research request with our research team around a show exploring religion — including Christianity, Catholicism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Paganism/Wicca.

May 22—Research team created “Exploring Religion” Google Doc and began working on research on four religions, including Wicca.

As you can see from the revision history on the right, the doc was created on May 22 and was opened/worked on by BuzzFeed’s research team several times between the 22–24).

Also included in this research document was a section on “Wiccan Experts,” including The Green Man shop.

May 24— Katie emailed research and let them know that the show wanted to focus the first episodes on Wicca and then Christianity.

June 26— First day of shooting for “A Skeptic’s Guide To Wellness.” We assume this may be the day that Jaclyn and her team shot at The Green Man, because Jaclyn said in her video about us (at 2:26) that the witchcraft episode was the first one she shot.

Keep in mind that at this point, while Jaclyn had announced she was filming a show, there’s was nothing posted online about what the show was about broadly, or what the episodes were about more specifically,

July 28— Research team created another doc called “More Wicca Experts/Contacts” at Sara’s request. She had decided to focus on Wicca for the first episode of what she hoped to become a Religious Exploration show.

August 4: Sara sent an email to her team letting them know she had been in contact with two Wiccan locations, one being The Green Man and the other in Michigan.

August 16— Laurie Lovekraft, one of the Wiccan experts featured in the video, sent an email connecting Sara/BuzzFeed with The Green Man shop to see about shooting there.

September 8— Sara emailed the BuzzFeed Los Angeles office to invite others to come to the Wiccan Ceremony that is shown in the video.

Sara sent this at 10:55AM.

September 8— The same day Sara sent out the casting email, our production team sent out their daily planning email, which included the fact that she would be shooting at The Green Man on September 11:

We shot a lot of things each day at BuzzFeed, so it was hard to screenshot this all in one email.

September 8 — This same day, Jaclyn released the trailer to her show, “A Skeptic’s Guide To Wellness,” on her YouTube channel. The trailer briefly mentions witchcraft at :25, and there is no mention of The Green Man shop.

September 8—This is also the day that Jaclyn’s show was released exclusively on the Fullscreen app. The witchcraft episode is episode 3/5, and the first of the 3 episodes that are behind a paywall.

September 11— Sara and Curly shot at The Green Man.

September 12— Sara and Curly participated in the Wiccan Ceremony at BuzzFeed.

September 30— We Practiced Magic With A Real Witch” was released on the BuzzFeed Video YouTube channel.

October 6— Jaclyn released her video, “BuzzFeed Stole From Me.”

Here’s a recap of the above timeline in case it’s helpful:

Timeline for “Women Try Crystal Healing For Chronic Pain.”

July 31 — Kelsey put in a casting request with our casting team, asking them to find a Crystal Healer in the Los Angeles area, who would be willing to treat two people.

August 4 —Devon, the show producer Kelsey works with, had asked BuzzFeed’s research team IRL earlier in the week for research on Crystal Healing. On the 4th, the research team created a Google Doc about Crystal Healing.

As you can see in the version history, Adriana Gomez, one of our research associates, edited the document throughout the day on August 4.

August 9 — Kelsey set up time to connect with Julianna Davis, the Crystal Healer featured in the video. At this time, Julianna had already signed a release form and we had scheduled our shoot with her for Monday, August 14.

August 10 — Kelsey emailed a friend and fellow YouTuber to invite her to join herself and Lara for Crystal healing. Kelsey’s friend was interested but unavailable on August 14, the date the shoot was already scheduled for.

August 14 — Kelsey and Lara shot with Julianna at her space in West Los Angeles.

Sept 8 — Jaclyn released a trailer for her show, “A Skeptic’s Guide To Wellness,” on her YouTube channel, the same time her entire show was released on the Full Screen app. Jaclyn’s episode on Crystal Healing is behind a paywall.

October 17 — BuzzFeed released Kelsey’s video, “Women Try Crystal Healing For Chronic Pain.”

Here’s a recap of the above timeline in case it’s helpful:

We’re all female content creators in a very competitive space but we should be supporting each other. Hopefully the next time you see similarities in videos, you’ll celebrate that these important topics are being covered at all.

— Sara Rubin and Kelsey Darragh

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