When he woke up on Friday morning, Barry Hirstius was an editor of FanSided.com’s New Orleans site, BigEasyBeliever.com, and could be found at the Twitter handle @HarahanWhoDat. By midnight, he was an ex-contributor to Big Easy Believer, his Twitter account was gone, and he had badly embarrassed FanSided, a sports blog network owned by TimeInc.
Hirstius’ hasty downfall began with this tweet alleging that a section of an article he wrote for Big Easy Believer had been directly plagiarized from CowboysBlitz.com.
A quick Google search shows that Hirstius had used the offending passage twice: Dec. 8 in an article headlined “A VERY EARLY Saints 7-Round 2017 Mock Draft” and Dec. 22 in one called “Saints ‘Draft Diamonds’ to Watch For Christmas Weekend.” The original Cowboys Blitz article was published back on Oct. 4.
Almost immediately after Hirstius was called out on Twitter, his @HarahanWhoDat account disappeared. Two hours later, FanSided announced that “a contributor” had been fired.
According to Hirstius’ bio on FanSided, which is still up on the site, he is “a 49 year old former professional journalist, who agreed to come out of ‘retirement'” to run Big Easy Believer.
In an email to Awful Announcing, Hirstius said he was fired not for plagiarism but for calling out a FanSided editor on Twitter. However, he acknowledged that he, on two occasions, “failed to give proper credit,” to another writer, blaming a “rush to be ‘the first’ writer in Saints Media every morning with a new story.”
Here’s the rest of Hirstius’ statement. Emphasis is his.
“This is of course is considered Plagiarism, which is obviously an unacceptable practice in our industry. As a result, it now appears that my writing career will end because of it, and it was a very sloppy and careless mistake that I will continually pay for over and over again, if I wish to remain a part of this business.
“The truly sad part of it all is that I love to write and I CAN write original content and write it VERY WELL as several prominent members of Saints Media can verify — but what I did is considered a huge “no-no” in our business, and now I will suffer the consequences.
“I humbly and willingly apologize to both Mr. Jonah Tuls and the FanSided Network for my actions, and I want to assure everyone especially my loyal and devoted readers that have followed me over the years, that this IS NOT in any way, shape, or form indicative of the person that I am, or any sort of reflection of how I conduct myself in my day-to-day actions. It was a careless mistake, pure and simple — and I accept full responsibility and accountability for it.
“My hope is to continue writing again at some point, and a few members of Saints Media have in fact reached out to me privately, to express both their concerns for my well-being and to help me plot a course for future endeavors.
“I am currently mulling over a few potential opportunities, of which if I’m given, I will demonstrate and PROVE to everyone that I am fully capable of being a responsible Journalist, from this point forward and into the future.”
This is not the first time FanSided has wound up with egg on its face thanks to something written by one of its many contributors. In fact, it’s not the first time this week. On Tuesday, the site drew ridicule online for an article suggesting the Golden State Warriors should trade Steph Curry for Rajon Rondo, forcing an editor to issue an apology.
In September, FanSided’s EIC, Jim Cavan, was fired over a bizarre controversy involving a fictional columnist, a porn actress and a misleading interview with this website.
When Time Inc. acquired FanSided, the goal was to “deepen Sports Illustrated’s local sports coverage,” but as far as we can tell, SI’s relationship with FanSided rarely extends past linking to FanSided content from the SI Twitter account.
One problem with sites like FanSided that house hundreds of blogs under one brand umbrella is the inevitable lack of oversight. We’ve seen rogue writers and editors cause trouble for FanSided in the past, just as we’ve seen the same happen at SB Nation. In the case of Hirstius, one misbehaving editor caused an embarrassment for the entire platform.
UPDATE: Welp, it looks like the plagiarism didn’t end with the two examples cited above.
Bobby Belt, who originally called out Hirstius for plagiarism, emailed us to note that the writer also plagiarized NFL.com, CBSSports.com and ChiefsWire.com in since-deleted articles on Big Easy Believer (Belt sent screenshots, and the text still comes up in a Google search).
The most recent incidence of Hirstius’ plagiarism came only two days ago, in a post called “New Orleans Saints 2017 Draft Top Cornerback Prospects.”
Here’s Tuls, writing on DraftBreakdown.com:
His zone awareness is impressive, as he takes proper angles, putting himself in good position to make a play on the ball. When he is in off man and zone coverage, he is one of the best in the country. The problem though is when he plays at the LOS, as well as coming downhill to help in run support. At the LOS, he gets bullied by bigger, more physical receivers, highlighting his lack of play strength. In jump ball situations, he is susceptible to getting boxed out and outmuscled for the play. While trying to come downhill in run support, he is too often on the ground because he cannot get off blocks.
And here’s Hirstius:
His zone awareness is impressive, as he takes proper angles, putting himself in good position to make a play on the ball. When he is in off man and zone coverage, he very well may just be one of the best if not THE BEST in the entire country. Seriously, he can be that good.
The problem though is when he plays at the line of scrimmage, as well as coming downhill to help in run support. At the line of scrimmage, he can get pushed around by bigger, more physical receivers, highlighting his lack of play strength. At the line of scrimmage, he gets bullied by bigger, more physical receivers, highlighting his lack of play strength. Additionally, while trying to come downhill in run support, he is too often on the ground because he cannot get off blocks.