Google search reveals plagiarism by columnist and White House aide

Timothy Goeglein is a columnist for the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel and a White House aide for the Office of Public Liason. Earlier today, he was caught plagiarizing a column originally written by Jeffrey Hart for the Dartmouth review after former employee a

His name is Timothy Goeglein, and, as Paul Kiel at Talking Points Memo points out, it is quite ironic that Google should be the cause of his professional demise.

Goeglein is a White House aide and, until today, wrote as a columnist for the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel. He was outed for plagiarism this morning when Nancy Nall, a former employee at the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel, posted a blog entry detailing an innocent Google search she conducted on one of Goeglein's subjects. The search revealed that his latest column was almost completely lifted from another source (Jeffrey Hart, in this case, in an article for the Dartmouth review).

Since Nall's original posting, her readers and other bloggers have identified multiple instances of plagiarism. Timothy Goeglein has also fessed up. He told the Journal Gazette, "It is true. I am entirely at fault. It was wrong of me. There are no excuses." The News-Sentinel has announced that Goeglein will no longer be writing for the paper and will look into just how many of his columns may have been cribbed.

It's unclear what the fate of his other job will be. Goeglein serves as a Special Assistant to the President and works in the White House's Office of Public Liason. In 2004, the New York Times published a profile on Goeglein's role in the White House. David D. Kirkpatrick suggested Goeglein is an extension of Karl Rove, "even Mr. Rove has his limits -- calls he cannot make, hands he cannot shake and meetings he cannot attend. For those, he has Timothy Goeglein." It seems like such a fiasco might jeopardize Goeglein's post, but there doesn't appear to be any word from the White House at this time.

Update (1:26PM):The AP has a quote from the White House:
"His behavior is not acceptable and we are disappointed in Tim's actions," White House spokeswoman Emily Lawrimore said. "He is offering no excuses and he agrees it was wrong."

Asked if he would keep his job, she said, "At this point we have nothing more for you on that."
I was in high school when my teachers first began talking about catching students engaged in plagiarism using software to scan papers. At the time, I think it was mostly just a scare tactic, but by college this type of software was definitely on the market. The Centre for the Study of Higher Education has an overview of plagiarism detection software options; many of them scour the net to identify suspect pages on the net.

All of these solutions are geared toward academia, but in light of Goeglein's story (and he's not the first journalist to copy copy), perhaps these software packages can find a new market catering to the news media. It's positively shameful that any news organization should have to actively target plagiarism, but it is even more damaging when a reader inadvertently discovers that a writer has passed off another's words as his own.

For those interested in seeing just how similar Timothy Goeglein's column was to Jeffrey Hart's original, take a look at the mark-up that Kevin Shay provides on his blog.
About the author

    Josh Wolf first became interested in the power of the press after writing and distributing a screed against his high school's new dress code. Within a short time, the new dress code was abandoned, and ever since then he's been getting his hands dirty deconstructing the media every step of the way. Wolf recently became the longest-incarcerated journalist for contempt of court in U.S. history after he spent 226 days in federal prison for his refusal to cooperate. In Media sphere, Josh shares his daily insights on the developing information landscape and examines how various corporate and governmental actions effect the free press both in the United States and abroad.

     

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