Breaking news from the world of advice columnists: Emily Yoffe has discovered striking similarities between questions used for numerous "Dear Prudence" columns she's penned and questions answered by actress Debbie Reynolds for her advice column "Dear Debbie" for the tabloid The Globe. Oh, it's on.
In 2010, Debbie Reynolds took over the Globe's advice column from Donald Trump's ex-wife Ivana Trump (the tabloid is owned by American Media Inc.). But it was only recently that Yoffe was contacted by a reader who noticed that the letters Yoffe was running "strongly resembled" those being answered months or years later by Reynolds in her own column.
As Yoffe notes, question repeats are common in the advice world; people will send in the same questions to multiple columnists, so sometimes you'll see them across different publications in the same week. But what appears to have been happening here is that the questions have been altered slightly and were not run the same week, indicating that the possible plagiarism isn't self-plagiarism on the part of the readers but the fault of someone at the Globe – or even Reynolds herself (just kidding, that woman can do no wrong).
After being alerted to the issue, Yoffe began to pay closer attention to "Dear Debbie" (which unfortunately is not online), noting "that week after week, of the four questions Dear Debbie ran, at least one and occasionally all four were strikingly like dilemmas I had responded to." In her piece, she cites multiple instances in which letters seemed slightly but not notably different in content – single fathers being changed to single mothers, boys being changed to girls, etc.
Yoffe doesn't go as far as to outright blame Reynolds for the possible plagiarism, as the actress doesn't have anything to do with sourcing the letters (they are sent to her via the Globe staff). But considering a lawyer from the tabloid got involved, the Globe certainly seems afraid that something might be afoot, though they claim that the possible root of this issue has very recently been quashed:
On Wednesday I got an email back from a lawyer for American Media, Lo-Mae Lai. She stated that "similarities between readers' letters is just one of the many challenges that all authors of advice columns must face"—even me, she made sure to point out. But Lai went on to say that having reviewed the letters I brought to their attention, they "agree that there are some editorial similarities in the subject matter contained in these letters." And in fact, Lai wrote, the person who managed the Dear Debbie column left the company on June 20, 2014. The new overseer "has assured us that all content in the Dear Debbie letters is original."
Will we ever get to the bottom of this mystery? If you have any insider knowledge of the goings-on in the life of Debbie Reynolds or at the Globe, please share them posthaste.
Images via Emily Yoffe/AP